HAMLET — A record-setting 302 students received degrees, diplomas and certificates from Richmond Community College at the school’s 50th commencement exercises Saturday.
The class of 2014 is RCC’s largest graduating class, eclipsing the 295 mark set last year. For the first time in its history, the college held two ceremonies to accommodate the number of graduates.
“With our growth, we wanted to make sure that we had room so that our graduates could be joined by family and friends to help them celebrate their special day,” RCC President Dr. Dale McInnis said in a statement. “The friends and families of our graduates have been instrumental in their success and they should be here.
“The only way to do it was to have two ceremonies.”
Columnist Barry Saunders of the Raleigh News & Observer delivered his commencement address during both ceremonies. He applauded the graduates for recognizing the importance of getting an education, something that he learned only after being cut from so many college basketball teams.
“I realized being a professional basketball player was not in my future and that I’d better go somewhere and get my education, so four years hence I wasn’t in the unemployment line with the best jump shot and unable to get a job,” Saunders said.
Saunders congratulated the graduates for staying on track and not allowing others to discourage them from getting an education.
“Nobody who calls himself a friend would try to discourage you or put you down for trying to better yourself or put your down for having goals and aspirations,” he said.
Saunders offered words of wisdom to the class of 2014 members as they prepare to embark into the real world.
“Life outside this college is the great equalizer,” he said. “Life – and most employers – do not care where you went to college, as long as you can do the job. It does not matter where your diploma comes from. It matters what comes with your diploma – if it comes with conscientiousness and hard work, if it come with motivation and integrity. Your diploma from Richmond Community College can take you further than a diploma from any other school on the planet. But it’s up to you to go out there and change the world with your education from Richmond Community College.”
Student Government Association President Ebony Wilder challenged her fellow students to keep growing and learning after graduation.
“Today, we celebrate a wonderful achievement for so many deserving people,” she said. “You have put your all into your education making sure graduation was your ultimate goal, and here today, all of you have achieved that. As you walk across the stage, know that this is not the end but the beginning of a new era that you are writing in your life. Whatever the challenge, you have the skills to achieve anything you can imagine. So celebrate your success today and prepare for the joys to come.”