A degree? Priceless
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 11, 2014 1:50 AM
Ben Sizemore holds his son, 3-month-old James, after Wayne Community College's Curriculum commencement exercises Friday night at Love Temple.
The sweltering heat Friday night presented a challenge to the 634 candidates for certificates, diplomas and degrees standing outside of Love Temple awaiting the ceremony.
But nothing could stop the smiles of those who came to watch them cross the stage.
Ryan Tuten, graduating in the heating and air conditioning program, could probably have used a little of the latter.
His parents, William and Sadie Tuten of Snow Hill, were too proud to let a little discomfort discourage them.
"This is great because I graduated from the program years ago (at Pitt Community College). Hopefully, we'll get something going," William said with a smile.
Ryan said his plans include going to work for a company for a few years, then obtaining his contractor's license.
Married couple Melissa and Jeremy Williams graduated together -- he with honors from the Automotive Systems Technology program and she with a Medical Office Administration degree.
Mrs. Williams has a job in the college's financial aid office and is currently working toward a second associate degree in office administration. And they have a 6-year-old daughter, Hannah.
"It's been a long, very fulfilling road," she said. "It's been difficult at times.
"My daughter learned what homework was at a very early age."
Master Sgt. Shawn Dussault, active duty military and a top student in the Networking Technology program, took his first class at the college in 2010. He and wife, Jennifer, a 2012 graduate from the Medical Assisting program, have four children, ages 22, 20, 19 and 15.
The 41-year-old said he is retiring soon from the military and wanted to pick up a skill set to use in the future.
"It's definitely been tough with deployments and everything else trying to get things done," he said. "There were two semesters I was doing classes from Bagram. I work nights so I can attend classes."
Medical Assisting graduate Laquita Streeter of Goldsboro had a unique challenge while juggling her studies.
Already a mother of a now-three-and-a-half-year-old daughter when she enrolled, she has had two more children in as many years of being in the program -- including one born just over a week ago, on May 2.
"I took my exams early on that Thursday night, then on Friday delivered him and went to the pinning ceremony," she said, adding, "I paid for it that night.
"It's been amazing because it was definitely not easy, not easy at all. I had a lot of support, friends, family. They always came and helped me, especially when I needed babysitting."
She is anxious to get to work in her chosen career field, but will likely take a break to spend some time over the summer with her children.
"I'm glad I have no more homework," she said. "I'm going to give myself a little bit of time, but I'm looking for employment."
Casie Price's summer plans include packing up and moving to New Hampshire with her family, which includes husband, William, who took WCC classes online while holding down a full-time job. The Lucama couple have three children, ages 10, 6 and 2.
"He would baby-sit while I was on campus and then I would come home and he'd go to work," she said.
Mrs. Price was the graduate Friday night, receiving two degrees, an associate in arts and an associate in science. She is planning to continue her education and major in zoology.
"I got accepted into four of the five schools I applied to," she said, explaining her choice will be the University of New Hampshire, but not as an online student. The family will relocate there before the fall.
Admittedly nervous, about graduation as well as the upheaval ahead, she said she had a lot of mixed emotions.
"Excited, I can take a break over the summer, stressed because we have to pack and move," she said. "I'm excited because it's some new stuff and I have worked really hard to get where I'm at.
"I didn't finish high school. I got my GED. I have had a bunch of trials and tribulations. I'm just proud to get to where I'm at right now."
Student speaker at the commencement, chosen by the faculty, was Andre Selby of Goldsboro, who will continue his education in the fall at East Carolina University in the Partnership East program. He aspires to teach elementary students.
"I came in (to WCC) not knowing what I wanted to do, and I came out with a purpose," he said. "All the clubs that I was involved in helped me. I realized that I wanted to have a career in helping people and then through tutoring, I realized that I had an aptitude in teaching."
The ceremony was also an opportunity to present the George E. Wilson Excellence in Teaching Award. This is the 29th year the college recognized an outstanding faculty member.
Susan McClenney, lead psychology instructor who has worked at WCC for 11 years, was the recipient. A member of the college's honors program faculty, she has taught several honors level developmental psychology courses. She was a dental hygienist before earning her master's degree in psychology from N.C. State University.