05/12/11 — Get diploma: WCC commencement was culmination of years of hard work

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Get diploma: WCC commencement was culmination of years of hard work

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 12, 2011 1:46 PM

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Graduates from Wayne Community College line up to receive their diplomas during the college's curriculum commencement ceremony Wednesday evening at Love Temple. This year 550 students received diplomas, certificates and associate degrees.

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From left, Wayne Community College students Deanna Langevin, Crystal Laremore, Alison Laswell and Margaret Lofton line up in anticipation of the graduation ceremony.


Deborah Carter lines up with Wayne Community College curriculum graduates during the school's commencement Wednesday evening at Love Temple. Ms. Carter did not have a cap and gown because she walked for her daughter Amber-Jolene Parish, who is currently with her husband in Japan, helping earthquake victims.

Deborah Carter may have looked slightly out of place in the lineup at Wednesday evening's Wayne Community College graduation, being the only one not outfitted in the traditional cap and gown.

But she didn't mind a bit, as she anticipated moments later being seen by her daughter when the curriculum ceremony streamed live over the Internet.

Amber-Jolene Parish worked diligently to earn her associate in arts degree, then in September, joined her husband in Misawa, Japan, where he is stationed in the Air Force. When an earthquake struck a few weeks ago, instead of returning in time for her own graduation, she opted to remain and to help with recovery efforts.

Tuesday night, her mother got a phone call from college officials, asking if she would be willing to stand in for her daughter.

"I said, 'absolutely,'" Ms. Carter said Wednesday.

It's a tradition of sorts to miss each other's graduation. Ms. Carter went back to school to obtain her high school diploma, finishing at WCC in 2003.

"She wasn't there for my graduation -- her dad had her. She's not here for her graduation," she said. "But we're both going to be here for my next graduation."

Ms. Carter, of Goldsboro, has begun taking college credit classes in the human services program.

This year's ceremony was streamed live on the computer, so Amber was able to watch, along with her husband and brother, who are all in Japan. Ms. Carter's son was going to videotape Amber's reaction when her mother came into view.

"I think she's going to scream, 'That's my mom,' I think she's going to cry," Ms. Carter said.

So, as the procession passed through and it came time for Amber's name to be called, officials explained her absence and introduced her mother -- which drew hearty applause from the audience -- as Ms. Carter blew a quick kiss toward the camera.

Ceremonies moved indoors to a larger venue this year, as the 550 candidates in curriculum programs received degrees and certificates at Love Temple.

Outside, before festivities got under way, Angel White and Cheryl Oakley helped each other position caps and sashes.

Ms. White, a business administration major, and Ms. Oakley, receiving her degree in early childhood education with a concentration in teacher's associate, were caught up in the day's significance.

"I'm overwhelmed, I'm 48 years old," Ms. Oakley said. "This is 30 years to the day that I graduated from high school. I'm blessed. I have no words, but I knew I could do it. My grandmother told me I could do it."

Ms. White said her day started out on a high note.

"I woke up this morning and my yard was full of banners and flags," she said, crediting her three children, ages, 16, 11 and 3, with the tribute.

Shelley Radford got to share the entire experience with her two oldest children, 18-year-old twins, Heath and Marah, as all three received associate degrees.

"It was interesting," she said. "You went your whole life with them. It's kind of like one of their biggest steps and they're going with you."

In two weeks, the twins will receive their high school diplomas from Wayne Early/Middle College High School, with plans to attend Mount Olive College in the fall.

Deanna Langevin of Pikeville, originally from Rhode Island, moved to the area two years ago with her husband, who is military. She received her associate degree and plans to continue college to become a special education teacher.

Another military wife, Alison Laswell, originally from Mississippi, returned to school when her youngest child entered kindergarten and completed the medical assisting program.

The mother of three -- ages 12, 9 and 7 -- said, "They're just glad for me to be done. But I think it helped with them having homework and me having homework."

Crystal Ann Laremore, who framed her graduation cap in hot pink and included a cutout of a tooth to represent her degree in dental hygiene, said it didn't seem real to be finished with school.

"You work really hard for so long," she said. "It's kind of a shock when you stop."

Margaret Lofton of Mount Olive obtained four accreditations -- an associate degree in medical office administration, diplomas in medical transcription and medical coding and a billing insurance certificate.

It took her two years and one semester, but it was worth it, if only to pave the way for her own two children, ages 13 and 9.

"I tried to set an example," she said. "I wanted them to bring home A's and so I had to bring home A's."

Ms. Lofton earned a 4.0 grade-point average and was also inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, the college's honor society. Graduation, she said, was the icing on the cake.

"I'm not nervous, just mostly excited," she said. "It's been a long road traveling. It's hard to believe it's here."

During the ceremony, Marie Barnes, a pre-curriculum reading and English teacher and humanities instructor, was presented the George E. Wilson Excellence in Teaching award.

Graduation speaker was Phillip Parry, who dropped out of college in his early 20s to pursue a career in management and then at age 44, enrolled in Wayne Community College. Recipient of the 2010 recipient of the N.C. Community College System Academic Excellence award, he is a now a junior at East Carolina University in the accounting program.

He posed three questions of the graduates -- Do you feel smarter? Do you feel wiser? Do you feel more confident?

"This transformation you and I have experienced here at WCC, with the completion of our goal, will continue with us for the rest of our lives," he said. "We are a little smarter and wiser and more confident than we were when we first embarked on this journey.

"For education is the gift you give to yourself, but from which society will benefit for generations to come."