05/17/09 — More than 500 graduate from Wayne Community College on Friday

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More than 500 graduate from Wayne Community College on Friday

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 17, 2009 2:00 AM

The parade of caps and gowns might have appeared uniform, but the array of degrees were as varied as each graduate's story at Wayne Community College's commencement Friday.

Khandee James, who moved here from New Jersey with her husband and five children, received her associate degree and is working toward a degree in nursing. When she didn't pass one of her courses in the fall, she submitted to the same punishment she would have imposed on her children -- a month of no TV or Internet.

Sanjita Patel was born in India, grew up in France and now runs a motel with her husband in Goldsboro. This year, the family spent time in India to expose their two children to the culture there. At WCC, she was in the honors program and received her associate degree.

Cody Rose completed his coursework at WCC while working full-time as a computer teacher assistant at Southern Wayne High School. In the fall, he will enter Wachovia Partnership East to pursue a degree in teaching.

After working at Dupont for more than 15 years, Alvis Boone Jr.'s employment was terminated and he came to WCC through the Workforce Investment Act. He obtained his first degree in heating and air conditioning, but enjoyed an animal science class he took as an elective so much, he wound up staying and finishing his degree in applied animal science.

Michael Gardner, 17, might have been one of the youngest candidates to receive his Associate in Arts degree at the college, especially considering he was simultaneously a student at Wayne Early/Middle College High School and Friday morning had presented his senior project there.

Hints of bad weather did not materialize, a relief for officials anticipating having to split up the ceremonies into two exercises indoors, said Dr. Kay Albertson, college president.

Recognizing all who had made the event possible, she praised the candidates before her for their "momentous accomplishment" in their educational careers. Of the 511 graduates, 371 received associate degrees, while another 91 certificates and 49 diplomas were also handed out.

Business instructor Banks Peacock was named recipient of the George E. Wilson Excellence in Teaching award. Presented by Bill Edgerton, member of the college Foundation's board of directors, this was the 24th year for the award.

Peacock was described as "constantly seeking creative and innovative ways to motivate his students and help them be successful," as well as a "fantastic team player" who could be counted upon to cheerfully volunteer to take on leadership roles at the college.

Keith Stewart, chairman of the school's board of trustees, introduced the commencement speaker, a familiar face to the community as well as the campus. The two, in fact, grew up not far from one another, he said.

Dr. Steve Taylor, superintendent of Wayne County Public Schools, graduated from Wayne Community in 1978. Since becoming superintendent in 2000, he has continued to work with the college in several partnerships over the years, Stewart said.

"If he wasn't already a fixture here, this could be a homecoming for Steve Taylor. Instead, he's going to be right at home ... just a neighbor sharing some insight he has gained since he was in your seat, graduates," Stewart said.

It's a very different world than when he was in that same audience, Taylor said.

As part of Generation Y -- anyone born since 1980 -- they are the first generation to have lived their entire lives with information technology, he said.

"It is not easy for you to even comprehend a world without MP3 players, smart phones, Twitter and Facebook," he said. Likewise, many will be entering jobs that did not even exist five years ago.

And while there is much excitement about the future, this is also a tumultuous time, he noted.

"The United States is facing some of the toughest economic times we have encountered since the Great Depression," he said. "The unemployment rate is at an all-time high and our citizens are facing difficult financial problems which threaten to cripple our entire economy. There are many reasons for this economic mess, but it will be all of us working together to turn the tide in a positive way."

Stay the course, he advised, recalling his own days as a student when he considered giving up. He shared a poem received from his parents when he was in graduate school that sustained him and continues to influence him today.

"Follow your dream. If you stumble, don't stop and lose sight of your goal, press on to the top. For only on top can we see the whole view, can we see what we've done and what we can do, can we then have the vision to seek something new, press on and follow your dream," he said. "I say unto you, never stop following your dream and success will be guaranteed."