Wilkes Community College’s Division of College & Career Readiness awarded diplomas at its 41st annual graduation ceremony on Sunday, August 18, at the John A. Walker Community Center. Of the 137 graduates, 129 earned a High School Equivalency (HSE) diploma and eight received an Adult High School (AHS) diploma. Eleven of the HSE graduates were at the Department of Corrections.
Brenda West, a former instructor with the Division of College & Career Readiness, started the formal ceremony with the prelude, followed by the processional “Pomp and Circumstance” and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which was sung by Tammy Griffin-Garcia, English Language Acquisition coordinator in the Division of College & Career Readiness and instructor of music in the Arts & Science Division.
Dr. Jeff Cox, WCC president, welcomed everyone to the special occasion.
Debbie Woodard, dean of the College & Career Readiness Division, introduced the guest speakers. They included Jessica Ranney Russell, Ashe HSE graduate; Lasha Ravien-Michelle Jackson, Wilkes HSE graduate; Maria Dolores Jimenez, Wilkes AHS graduate; Madalyn Dawn Riggins, Wilkes HSE graduate; Jacob Stephen Sherwood, Wilkes HSE graduate; Gavin Elijah Cook, Wilkes HSE graduate; and Duane Binkley, Chaplain of Tyson Foods. Each of the student speakers shared success stories and expressed gratitude for the opportunity to further their education through the College & Career Readiness program.
Jessica Russell, Ashe HSE graduate, stated, “I took the more difficult path in life. Many doors were shut without a high school diploma and I’m the type of person to dislike limitations.” More doors are now open for Jessica as she has taken the first step towards her lifelong dream to become a registered nurse. She is attending pre-nursing classes at Wilkes Community College.
Lasha Jackson, Wilkes HSE graduate, would not give up. She was a high school senior, in her last semester of school, when her family abruptly uprooted her by moving to North Carolina. Her credits from the magnet school for the Arts and Business did not transfer because of a different accreditation system. She persisted until she finished her high school credential and now is in her second semester of classes at Wilkes Community College.
Maria Jimenez, Wilkes Adult High School diploma earned all 22 of her credits to graduate. She stated, “This diploma does not just represent what we have done, it also represents that we want a successful future. Today we are not just receiving a diploma, we are receiving the key that will open any door that we choose to open with it.”
Madalyn Riggins, Wilkes HSE graduate, enjoys drawing and writing stories. Her talent was evident by the score she made on the Language Arts Writing portion of her High School Equivalency exam. She made the highest score that any student at Wilkes Community College has ever made. She stated, “I want to encourage anyone here to take chances. Don’t let your obstacles become barriers. You’re never too old, and it’s never too late to begin a new chapter in your life. You have infinite paths that wind in thousands of directions just waiting ahead of you, waiting to be explored. Take them. Take them and run and experience what life has to offer. I plan to.”
Stephen Sherwood, Wilkes HSE graduate, found that traditional schooling was impossible for him. He did not give up on his dream, and he and his wife came back and both received their high school credentials. Stephen’s goal to start EMT classes at Wilkes Community College is now a reality for him.
Gavin Cook, Wilkes HSE graduate, came to the program to finish his high school credentials which would allow him to study Aviation Science with the goal of being an air traffic controller. He also worked with his youth coach from NCWorks who found a work experience job for him at our local airport. Gavin is now enrolled in Wilkes Community College classes to pursue his dream.
Woodard said of guest speaker Duane Binkley, Chaplain for Tyson Foods, “It has been one year since we started our partnership to offer classes inside the Tyson Plants and today, we have graduated from Tyson to walking across the stage.” In Mr. Binkley’s motivational speech, he quoted Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Philippians 1:6 to challenge the new graduates to “believe you can, create your future, and carry it on to completion.”
After the speakers, Evan Adair, English Language Acquisition instructor in the Division of College & Career Readiness and instructor of music in the Arts & Science Division, sang, “You Raise Me Up.”
The following graduates participated in the ceremony:
Alleghany County High School Equivalency diploma – Cheyenne Nicole Brewer, Sparta; Connie Faye Dickens, Sparta; Samantha K. Jones, Glade Valley; Rachel Barnes Rector, Sparta; Matthew Dylan Skeens, Sparta; Lita Ann Taylor, Sparta; and Amber Raynay Woodie, Glade Valley.
Ashe County High School Equivalency diploma – Dillon Lee Boggs, Jefferson; Michelle D. Brown, West Jefferson; Ricky Lee Brown, Piney Creek; Pamalyn C. Calhoun, West Jefferson; Evan Blake Campbell, Crumpler; Zoey Faith Church, Crumpler; Mark Allen Claycomb, West Jefferson; Zachary Allen Claycomb, West Jefferson; Hunter L. Cox, Creston; Tracy Diane DeLa Cruz, West Jefferson; MaKayla Belle Earp, Jefferson; Emily Nicole Farmer, Fleetwood; Aravak J. Hakobian, Grassy Creek; Malek C. Hakobian, Grassy Creek; Ruth C. Hakobian, Grassy Creek; Samantha N. Knapp Morgan, Winston-Salem; Ashley Amber Little, Jefferson; Jason Keith Lomboy, Lansing; Charles William Price, Laurel Springs; Jessica Ranney Russell, Warrensville; Hayley N. Walls, Whitetop, VA; and Alexis N. Winters, Crumpler.
Ashe County Adult High School diploma – Bailey Paige Bennett, Lansing; Seth Caleb Burchette, West Jefferson; and Morgan Malinda Girtman, West Jefferson.
Wilkes County High School Equivalency diploma – Jessica Greene Adams, Hays; Carrie May Albea, North Wilkesboro; Kandice LeeAnn Anderson, Union Grove; Victor Deshawn Anthony, Cherryville; Matthew D. Blevins, North Wilkesboro; Dustin Allen Cardwell, Hays; Erik W. Castillo, Millers Creek; Xavier Marcus Cecile, Wilkesboro; Gavin Elijah Cook, Ronda; Jerry Thomas Fairchild, North Wilkesboro; Kaitlin Foskey, Ferguson; Travis Vance George, North Wilkesboro; Adrianne Harrold, North Wilkesboro; Steven Andrew Harrold, Wilkesboro; Justin D. Hayes, North Wilkesboro; Lasha Ravien-Michelle Jackson, North Wilkesboro; Hannah Lee Ann Johnson, Millers Creek; Jensen Lawrence, Boone; Nancy Adriana Lopez, North Wilkesboro; Christopher Arlie Lovette, North Wilkesboro; Charles Hunter Lynn, Moravian Falls; Amanda Dawn Maltba, North Wilkesboro; Julian Juan Mendoza, North Wilkesboro; Timothy Ryan Miller, Hays; Samantha Dare Minter, North Wilkesboro; Makenzie Lynn Nail, Wilkesboro; Petra Nunez, North Wilkesboro; Mohammed H. Nurye, Wilkesboro; Madalyn D. Riggins, North Wilkesboro; Patricia A. Ruggiero, North Wilkesboro; Lorena Samboni, Wilkesboro; Christy C. Sherwood, North Wilkesboro; Jacob S. Sherwood, North Wilkesboro; Samantha Ann Wagoner, McGrady; Allyssa Nicole Watson, Salisbury; Ma’kala Adrianna Wilson, Elgin, SC; and Crystal K. Wyatt, North Wilkesboro.
Wilkes County Adult High School diploma – Anita Hipolito-Mendoza, North Wilkesboro; Maria Dolores Jimenez, Hays; James Albert Phillips, Traphill; Miranda Cheyann Laws, Hays; and Dustin Wayne Wagoner, Elkin.
Chris Robinson, vice president of Workforce Development & Community Education; Debbie Woodard, dean of College & Career Readiness; Phyllis Yates, superintendent of Ashe County Schools; and Dr. Mark Byrd, superintendent of Wilkes County Schools presented the graduates with their diplomas and certificates. Afterward, Dr. Jeff A. Cox, WCC president, conferred the diplomas.
Following the commencement recessional, a reception was held to honor the graduates and their guests.
The College & Career Readiness Division serves Wilkes, Ashe, and Alleghany counties through several locations in each county. Classes are free, and instruction is self-paced and structured to fit the needs of students at their current functioning level. Students range in age from 16 and up.
For more information about College Readiness, contact Faye Handy at 336-903-3232 or Amanda Handy at 336-903-3230.