‘Destined to Succeed’

Jun. 22, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

The cheering and applause in the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center June 20 rivaled that at any championship basketball game.

Only those on the floor weren’t wearing uniforms and scoring points; they donned blue academic robes and had just won a victory in self confidence, academic achievement, and hope in a brighter future. Failure, discouragement, and, for many, a long-standing sense of self doubt had been defeated.

The cheering and applause was by more than 1,000 proud and excited family and friends as about 150 students walked across the civic center’s stage and received their Adult High School or General Educational Development diplomas, earned through Central Carolina Community College’s College and Career Readiness division. A total of 246 students earned diplomas.

Student speakers for the graduation were Tina Thomas of Chatham County, Joshua McCorquodale of Harnett County and Bobby Clegg of Lee County.

The audience was excited, but Clegg began his remarks noting, “You’re not as happy as we are!”

He had dropped out of high school, only to discover that everything he wanted in life required a diploma. In his 40s, he enrolled in CCCC’s GED program, thinking it would be a breeze. It wasn’t, and he dropped out again. He credited the College and Career Readiness instructors with convincing him to return and complete his GED. He also credited his faith in God, saying that the Lord told him, “48 is not too late” to get an education. Now, he plans to continue his studies at the college level.

“If you believe, you can achieve — don’t quit,” he said. “Education is the key to success in life and business. You can do it; you can win!” 

Other student speakers were Tina Thomas of Chatham County and Joshua McCorquodale of Harnett County.

Thomas quit high school at the age of 16, in spite of having good grades. In the following years, she worked at several jobs, but always saw how raises and promotions passed her by because she didn’t have a high school diploma. She married and raised four children, but always felt the loss from having dropped out. Then, on vacation one year, she had a stroke and had to have open-heart surgery.

“That got me thinking how lucky I was to be alive,” she said. “It was time for me to go back to school.”

Now, she plans to continue her education at CCCC in Human Resources.

“Start your to-do list before life gets in the way,” she told those assembled. “To the youth — work hard in school so you don’t have to struggle in the future. To the graduates — we’re all destined to succeed; you just have to choose how to do so.” 

McCorquodale’s excitement at his accomplishment was contagious.

“I thank my parents and CCCC — you gave me confidence,” he said. “Thank you for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. My time at CCCC has been the most inspirational time.” 

During the commencement exercises, six Adult High School and 19 GED graduates were recognized for academic excellence. Thirty-five in the graduating class had also earned a Career Readiness Certificate in addition to their diploma. The CRC certifies to employers that a person has the foundational workforce skills in reading, math, and locating information that are required in 90 percent of jobs.

CCCC Harnett Provost Bill Tyson and college trustee Ophelia Livingston presented scholarships to several students. CCCC Foundation scholarships went to Wendi Perez-Sanchez of Chatham County; Larry Jones of Harnett County; and Samantha Christie of Lee County. Dominque Anderson of Harnett County received the W.B. Wicker Scholarship; Tina Thomas of Chatham County received the Everette T. Hickman Scholarship; and Joseph Snouwaert of Lee County received the John McCullough Spirit Scholarship. All the graduates received a Tuition Scholarship Voucher for one continuing education or one three-credit hour curriculum course at CCCC 

Katelan Webster of Chatham County bore the college mace and headed the academic procession of college administrators, faculty and graduates.

Ofelia Gonzalez of Lee County received her GED diploma. Gonzalez said she and her family were very excited about her graduation because she had achieved her second goal. 

“My first goal was to become a United States citizen, and I achieved that in 2011,” she said.

At the conclusion of the exercises, Pam Senegal, CCCC vice president for Economic and Community Development, addressed the graduates, quoting Dr. Seuss. 

“You’re off to great places! Today is your day!” she said, with a congratulatory smile for the graduates. “Your mountain is waiting, So … get on your way!”

And, followed by more audience cheers and applause, the graduates marched out to do just that.