Craven Community College (Craven CC) held its 53rd annual Commencement Ceremony as a drive-thru event on Saturday, June 27. More than 140 graduates were in attendance, with an estimated 200 vehicles lining the college’s parking lots.
Several changes were made to this year’s program to ensure students were properly honored for their hard work, while also making every effort to promote a safe and healthy environment for all those in attendance. Unique to any previous graduation ceremony at Craven CC, students were required to park their vehicles in allotted parking lots and direct their attention to a stage erected at the front of the college’s largest parking lot.
The ceremony started off with a welcome by Board of Trustees Chair Allison Morris, followed by a performance of the national anthem by student Molly McAbee, remarks by Student Government President Grace Beauchamp and a commencement address by Craven CC President Dr. Ray Staats. Dr. Kathleen Gallman, vice president for instruction, then read off the names of students receiving degrees, diplomas and certificates.
“Today is most certainly a unique one in the college’s history,” said Staats. “It is also a unique moment in time for each and every one of our graduates. Today is the culmination of years of very hard work and an achievement that will bring benefits and opportunities throughout your lifetimes. And so it’s especially important that we gather here today, even as we take special safety precautions, to recognize and celebrate what you have done.”
While graduates were not able to walk across the stage, everyone had their name called as usual to make sure each student was individually recognized. At the ceremony’s conclusion, graduates lined up in their vehicles and drove a “victory lap” around the campus to celebrate the close of their unique educational journeys.
Craven CC’s graduating class of 2020 comprised over 580 students, including 31 graduates of College & Career Readiness programs, 46 graduates of Craven Early College on the New Bern campus and 37 graduates of Early College EAST on the Havelock campus. Graduates earned an impressive total of 1,083 certificates, diplomas and degrees. The youngest graduate was 16 years old and the most mature was 66 years young.
This year, 108 new members were inducted into Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the international honor society for two-year institutions. The college’s PTK chapter, Alpha Phi Nu, continues to achieve at the highest levels internationally as a 5-star chapter for the 10th year in a row, as well as at the college and in the community.
“As our college’s faculty and staff modeled resilience, you, our graduates, surely learned this trait and put it well into practice,” added Staats. “One of the hallmarks of community college students is that you continue your studies even as life happens all around you. But for you, life didn’t just happen. Life threw the kitchen sink at you repeatedly.”
Each graduate overcame an exceptional set of challenges to achieve their academic goals. Many of them began their college careers just weeks before Hurricane Florence caused unthinkable destruction, which was capped off by Hurricane Dorian’s arrival not even a year later. Students overcame those obstacles only to be sidelined again by the pandemic in March. Resilience and determination were clear factors in getting students to graduation day, as well as unwavering support from college faculty and staff.
“Benjamin Franklin said that an investment in knowledge always pays the best interest,” said Staats. “My challenge to you today is to take the interest earned via your Craven Community College credential and use it to walk through those doors of opportunity. Walk through with confidence and purpose; walk through with reverence and gratitude for those that went before you—those who reached back to help you forward. Walk through as a guide for those are behind you, and help them find their way.”
Fall registration is currently underway through Aug. 18. New and returning students can email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a virtual conference or visit First Stop in Barker Hall on the New Bern campus Monday through Thursday between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.
This article was originally published in the New Bern Sun Journal on July 1, 2020.