12/11/11 — MOC graduates 383 in Saturday commencement ceremony

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MOC graduates 383 in Saturday commencement ceremony

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on December 11, 2011 1:50 AM

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Allison Carter

Richard Leak, right, receives his diploma Saturday at the Mount Olive College graduation.

MOUNT OLIVE -- Sandra Chapel took a moment to collect herself after tears started falling.

She knows just how hard her husband worked to make it to his college graduation -- how a four-year degree had taken him six to achieve; how he came back from a tour in Iraq determined to overcome the internal struggles many combat veterans experience to meet his goal.

"This is a great time for us," Mrs. Chapel said, looking over at her two sons, Joshua and Jonathan. "He's been through so much ... with the deployments and the stress. We're just very proud of him. He's worked so hard."

Commencement speaker state Sen. Louis Pate told those who attended Mount Olive College's fall graduation that every man and woman set to turn their tassel had a story.

And Chapel's, no matter how compelling, was only one of them.

Mary Santos shared hers with nearly a dozen loved ones.

And when her name rang out inside Kornegay Arena, her 2-year-old granddaughter, Jade, was the first to congratulate her.

"She screamed," Mrs. Santos' daughter, Oria, said. "She screamed, 'Grandma.'"

But the little girl was not the only one excited about the 60-year-old's achievement -- although she was the only one running in circles saying, "Grandma," over and over again.

"We're very, very proud," said Oria, one of Mrs. Santos' six children. "It's great."

Josie Engesether was doing her share of running, too.

But her bursts of energy were to be expected, her mother, Amanda said.

The girl is, after all, not quite 2 years old.

"It's hard to keep her sitting in those bleachers," she said.

And while she and her future sibling -- Amanda is just a few weeks away from having the couple's second child -- won't have memories of the day their father, Joseph, earned his bachelor's degree, their mother said it was certainly a proud moment for the family.

"I'm very, very proud of him," Amanda said. "He was definitely a multi-tasker."

For another graduate -- MOC officials said nearly 400 left campus with their diploma Saturday -- the day was about far more than a milestone reached.

It meant that when she joined the Air Force to "help get an education," she had lived up to her word.

"It's something I always wanted to do," she said.

And it also marked her 27th birthday -- and the first time she, her brothers and father had been together in nearly five years.

So shortly after her name was called, Evelyn Nicholson and her loved ones made a quick exit.

But not before her father, James, and brother, Matt, talked about just how much it meant to them to see her walk across that stage.

"It feels great," James said, moments after he posed for a photograph with the young lady he will always, in a way, see as his little girl. "I'm very proud."

Matt agreed.

"I think we all are," he said. "We're all pretty proud of her."