VGCC graduates ready for the world

May. 16, 2014 @ 09:45 PM

The sunset was perfect scenery for 429 students to receive diplomas Friday at Vance-Granville Community College's commencement ceremony.

Graduates arrived as early as 5:30 p.m. to line up inside.

The halls smelled of hairspray and perfume and rang with graduates' chatter about the hectic day and their eagerness to get on with the show.

Many students showed their personalities with decorated graduation caps. Theresa Exley's read “because my Hogwarts letter never came,” a play on the Harry Potter books series. She received an associate of arts degree Friday evening.

“I worked really hard,” she said. “I was a full-time student, and I had a full-time job. But the real person I am proud of is my sister. She is graduating from the radiology department, and she has a 6-year-old son.”

Out on the courtyard, families carried chairs and blankets and walked around until they found the best spot to set up their cameras.

Marshalls escorted teachers and students to their seats at exactly 6 p.m. Graduates were all smiles. They waved and stopped the line occasionally to pose for their parents' cameras.

The speakers committed to keeping the ceremony short and sweet. Student Government Association president Theresa Chiplis spoke about the obstacles students overcame to get to their graduation day, while U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield preached about staying faithful to family, humanity, their college and God.

Sons and daughters — some of them adults — called to their graduating “mommy” and “daddy” from the crowd.

Sonja Henderson stood by the ropes to record her mother, 65-year-old Gladys Neal, as she walked across the stage.

“I am so very proud of my mother,” she said. “She worked very hard to get her early childhood associate's degree.”

Many students crossed the stage with fists in the air. After arriving back at their seats, Chiplis led them as they turned their tassels.

“Now is the big moment," she said. "We did it.”

Steven Young was happy to witness his wife of 17 years, Aleshia Long, get her associate degree in nursing.

“It's been a long road, and it takes two these days,” he said. “As far as the obstacles she's had to overcome, this is another bridge she has taken.”

 

Contact the writer at dhairston@hendersondispatch.com.