WCC tassels turn
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 11, 2011 2:22 PM
The hallway in the Walnut Building at Wayne Community College was quieter than usual on Tuesday, despite the congested throng of students that lined up shortly after 5 p.m.
The occasion, and the lack of air conditioning, transformed the group into reverent mode as they anticipated the moment they had long awaited -- graduation.
Fifty-eight adult high school graduates and 216 General Educational Development, or GED, diploma recipients were recognized at commencement exercises in Moffatt Auditorium, where there was air conditioning.
A capacity crowd, including those in the cafeteria-converted overflow area where a live feed of the ceremony was broadcast, was there to cheer on friends and family.
Some traveled far for the occasion. Ebony Skinner, 16, an honor graduate in the GED program, had nine in her cheering section.
Debbie Sumpter of Gastonia and Julie Martin of Charlotte, Ebony's aunts, along with Uncle Hayden Sterling of Omaha, Neb., said it was worth the trip to watch the aspiring pediatrician cross the stage.
"We support Ebony," Ms. Sumpter said. "She's one of our oldest grandchildren. We're just proud of her to accomplish such a wonderful thing in such a short space."
Ebony's younger brother, Derryl Skinner, 14, might have donned a tie but his youthful exuberance still shone through.
"I'm proud of my sister, and I'm proud that she'll be out of the house soon," he said.
Eric McCall of Goldsboro turned out for his neighbor Latasha Bryant, a 29-year-old GED recipient.
"I just moved here, and she's a very outgoing person," McCall said. "She got to know me and invited me. I came out here to support her."
It took two years for Ms. Bryant to finish, but she had one special motivation for doing so -- her 12-year-old daughter Tykira Bryant.
"It's exciting, very exciting," Ms. Bryant said. "I'm doing it so, you know, to teach my child that I came to school to graduate, so she should graduate."
Meisha McClain of Fremont, 17, enrolled in the adult high school program in the summer of 2010.
"I came back because I wanted to go to college" and knew the first step was obtaining a high school diploma, she said.
Completing the program in December, she is already taking college classes, studying accounting, she said.
Frank King, 20, of Mount Olive, only stayed out of school six months before realizing he needed to finish his high school classes, he said.
"I heard they had a good program here and better teachers," he said. "I'm excited about finishing and stuff. I had good teachers."
He's already found a job for the summer, working at Burger King in Mar Mac, he said. In the fall, he'll be taking classes at WCC toward his automotive degree.
"I've always been interested in working on cars," he said. "My grandfather, who I never met, liked working on cars. I just like taking things apart and putting them together."
Eventually, he'd like to go into the Army, he said. But for now, he's very philosophical about his journey.
"Roll with the punches in life," he said. "I'm finishing and I'm happy."
Crystal Leon, 21, who entered the adult high school program in 2006, was relieved and proud to obtain her diploma.
"I wanted to get it done before I had children," she said.
Working her way through school as a Spanish interpreter, she is considering pursuing a career in cosmetology.
"I will break for the summer and then get back (to classes) in the fall," she said. "It took me awhile but I got it done."
Cameron Malinofski from Patetown was also pleased with his accomplishment, for several reasons.
"I loved it. I'm graduating on time; I'm 17," he said, noting that he finished a month earlier than some of his classmates around the county. "I was able to work, about 30 hours a week (at Deacon Jones Ford)."
And he isn't through. He plans to attend WCC in the fall, in the agriculture program, followed by two years at N.C. State University.
"I'm hoping to start my own landscaping business," he said.
Nick Maier's aspirations are higher, sky high in fact.
The 16-year-old -- he turns 17 today -- was enthusiastic about being able to wrap up his high school studies a year early, and anticipates completing the process of obtaining his private pilot's license later this summer.
"Ever since I was little I have always loved planes," he said. "My father was in the Air Force for 24 years."
Prior to the ceremony, he learned he was the recipient of the Penny Nelson Memorial Scholarship, awarded in memory of a favorite teacher who lost her battle with cancer a few years ago.
"As far as I know I am the only one that received a scholarship," said Maier, who will enter the aviation maintenance program at WCC in the fall. "After my two years, I'm going to get my bachelor's degree, then plan on going into the Air Force as an officer. My dream is to become a pilot."
Keynote speaker for the event, one of their peers, was a self-proclaimed "guy who showed no interest in getting his education."
Andrew Robinson, now 21, dropped out of high school just shy of completing his senior year. He recalled going to detention 23 times in one semester during his freshman year, resulting in him having to repeat the ninth grade.
"Looking back at it all now, I can only laugh because of the person I was then and the person I am now, are like two totally different people," he said.
Being at Wayne Community College changed his life in many ways, he said, crediting "positive people" he encountered in the form of friends and teachers who nudged and guided him toward getting an education.
"The main thing I can honestly say I've learned here at WCC is that you cannot give up," he said. "It doesn't matter what your situation is, where you come from, how many kids you have, how many dogs or cats you have to feed. The main thing you have to remember is that you cannot give up.
"I was at the end of my rope nearly 78 different times but by having faith and by keeping it, I continued to get pulled back. ... Faith is the main key to life and the success that life has to offer. Above everything, have faith because faith will lead you down the road to success."
WCC will have a second commencement ceremony this evening, for the largest graduating class in the school's history, with 557 candidates.
It is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. at Love Temple, 201 N. Oak Forest Road. Admission is by ticket only. No one will be admitted after 5:50 p.m. and there is no overflow option at this venue, officials said.
For the first time, though, the ceremony will be streamed live, on computers and various smart phones, at www.waynecc.edu/ graduation.