Craven Community College (Craven CC) held its 52nd annual graduation ceremony on the New Bern campus Saturday, May 11. The class of 2019, made up of 681 students, was presented with a total of 1,101 certificates, diplomas and degrees.
Among those students, 49 graduated from the college’s Basic Skills programs. Unique to typical community college commencements, Craven CC also recognized graduates of its two innovative high school programs, a partnership between the college and Craven County Schools: Craven Early College of the New Bern campus had 46 graduates and Early College EAST of the Havelock campus had 33 graduates. Each early college student entered the program as a freshman in high school and took a combination of high school and college courses throughout the five-year program, ultimately earning both a high school diploma and associate degree with the option to transfer to a four-year university as a junior.
Craven CC’s Kappa Beta Delta business honor society was recognized for inducting 15 new students in the past year. Alpha Phi Nu, the college’s chapter of the international honor society Phi Theta Kappa, was recognized for inducting 94 new members in the past year, as well as achieving five-star status for nine years in a row.
Recipients of the 2019 Excellence Awards were recognized as well. Each year, a college committee selects three members of the Craven CC faculty and staff who have demonstrated a distinguished commitment to excellence, leadership and service. Eddie Sabat, mathematics instructor, received the Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award; Amanda Bennett, adjunct history instructor and academic advisor, received the Adjunct Faculty Excellence Award; and Jeff Schulze, director of trade programs, received the Staff Excellence Award.
In preparation for the event, the hardworking Craven CC facilities team set up a massive tent and an overflow tent with 1,900 chairs for guests in an effort to dampen the heat from the mid-morning sun. Despite the humidity, about 2,200 people showed up to watch as loved ones walked across the stage. Graduates beamed with pride as they celebrated the payoff of their efforts. The youngest graduate was 17 years old while the most mature graduate was 65 years young.
Dr. Ray Staats, Craven CC president, acknowledged that while graduation day is obviously a very special time, the effects this year were a bit stronger than normal. He referred to Hurricane Florence’s enormous impact and the months-long devastation and rebuilding that is still underway. Although the college remained closed for three weeks, the New Bern campus served as a haven to WCTI NewsChannel 12, as well as many nonprofits such as the American Red Cross and the North Carolina Mobile Feeding Kitchen, which prepared 14,000 hot meals and distributed them to local citizens in need.
While the college sustained moderate damage, primarily at the Havelock campus, it paled in comparison to the hundreds of students, faculty and staff who lost everything. Staats applauded students’ determination to continue their education, stating how they were inspirational in the wake of disaster.
“I’m particularly proud of our entire college team,” he said. “The college stood as a pillar of strength and support. Knowing education is the foundation of a brighter future, the Craven CC Foundation’s leaders immediately created a special Hurricane Relief Fund for students who sustained extensive damage, designating funds toward tuition, books, equipment and other supplies needed to continue their studies without interruption.”
In November, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an $18.5 million relief fund, and Craven CC was among 21 colleges in the state to receive funding. The college was allocated $408,333, of which students are eligible for $1,250 per semester through June 30, 2019. Through the efforts of the college’s diligent staff, these funds were distributed to 277 Craven CC students. Each one of those students has been able to continue or complete their educational goals.
“I am indeed inspired by the tenacity and resiliency of our college family,” continued Staats. “We stepped up as a community partner and remained steadfast in a time of great turmoil as our community rebuilt homes and lives. Through all of this year, our college continued to march forward with improvements to our academic programming, student services and our infrastructure.”
He detailed several projects the college completed within the last academic year, such as the completion of the new First Stop in Barker Hall, which involved the renovation of 12,000 square feet to create a modernized student space that streamlines registration, advising, veteran affairs and financial aid services. He discussed the construction of the Havelock campus’ Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM, building set for completion this fall. Lastly, he talked about the completion of the Volt Center, a workforce development training facility that is the result of an extraordinary partnership between the college, City of New Bern and several other community organizations.
Staats also commended the key role that family and friends played in the success of the students.
“We appreciate the support and motivation you provided,” he said. “As you can see today, your support made the difference.”
Linda Staunch, an established leader in the community, was this year’s guest speaker. With decades of experience in public relations and event planning and management, Staunch has lent her expertise to countless businesses and nonprofits throughout Eastern North Carolina. She addressed the students with firsthand knowledge about the importance of values, and she explained how failures are a necessary part of the learning process.
Staunch emphasized the importance of always persevering and moving forward, regardless of the setbacks. She told the students that although graduation marked the end of this chapter, it is merely the first step in their educational journey.
Anyone interested in taking the next step in his or her educational journey is encouraged to speak with an advisor. To set up an appointment, contact the Admissions Department at 252-638-7430 or email@example.com.
This article also appeared in the Sun Journal.