Excitement was in the air on May 13 as, for the first time in three years, Piedmont Community College (PCC) held an in-person, traditional Commencement to celebrate the success of its students who earned degrees, diplomas, and certifications.

The ceremony was planned to be outside on PCC’s campus, but it was moved to the Person High School gymnasium due to scattered showers throughout the evening. Students, their loved ones, and College employees made sure, no matter where the graduation was, their accomplishments would be celebrated to the highest degree.

“This year’s commencement ceremony was one that we were greatly looking forward to,” said Dr. Shelly Stone-Moye, PCC’s Vice President, Student Development. “It is the first standard ceremony since the start of the pandemic. We had very successful drive-thru ceremonies for the past two years, but seeing our students and their families celebrate in person was even more rewarding.”

Graduates lined up in their dark green regalia, draped with chords and stoles representing academic success and student engagement, some had decorated caps to add personal flair, such as one decorated in flowers and bees that read “Bee-lieve in yourself,” or another that read “I wanted to give up, but I remembered who was watching.” Then as the graduates entered the gym, the awaiting crowd roared with cheers for their loved ones.

The second class of graduates from the Person Early College for Innovation and Leadership (PECIL) was recognized, with 24 earning a degree, diploma, or certificate, many with honors. A formal PECIL graduation will take place May 21 at 7 p.m. at the Kirby Art Gallery in Uptown Roxboro.

Thirty-four Career and College Promise students were also recognized as they will not only graduate from their respective high schools later this month or in June but completed an associate degree or diploma from PCC.

During the ceremony, Dr. Pamela G. Senegal, President of PCC, congratulated the graduates and thanked their family and friends for being strong supporters over the last few years and instrumental in their success as they prepared to cross the stage.

“Thank you for the personal and educational support you provided to your graduate,” Senegal said. ”The importance of your support can not be overstated. It truly is the foundation that made today possible. Please continue to be a place of stability and strength in the coming days as graduates make decisions for their next steps.”

Senegal continued to motivate the graduates by encouraging them to continue learning, teaching, sharing, and setting an example for those who may follow, similar to PCC’s 2021 Alumnus of the Year, who embodies those pillars in his daily work, Larry Wilkerson.

As a 1994 graduate from PCC, Wilkerson has supported his community and the College as a dedicated member of the Board of Trustees since 1995, earning appointments from five North Carolina governors. As a student who was working full-time, Wilkerson was also a charter member of the College’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. He continues to be one of PCC’s most active advocates in Person County.

“PCC was my anchor, and the College helped me get to where I needed to be in life,” Wilkerson said in his address to the graduates. “But tonight is about you, and no one can take your achievement away. You completed a serious accomplishment by working hard, and tonight you will finally receive what you have been striving for.”

Before calling graduates to receive their diploma, Dr. Senegal announced PCC’s 2022 Academic Excellence Award recipient, Jonathan Thomas “Jackson” Bradsher. This award is given to one student from each of the 58 community colleges from the North Carolina Community College System and recognizes outstanding academia.

“I am very honored to have received such a prestigious award,” Bradsher said. My only goal, every year, was to do my best, and it feels awesome to have all that hard work pay off. Now as I pursue my bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees, I don’t plan on slowing down.”

Bradsher, who would later be announced as earning his Associate in Science degree and a certificate in Welding Technology, graduating Summa Cum Laude from PCC, will also earn his high school diploma from the Person Early College for Innovation and Leadership later this month. He will continue his higher education at Pfeiffer University, pursuing a degree in history, with hopes to one day become an archeologist, concentrating in the eastern and central Mediterranean regions.

He continued to share that his experience at PCC enabled him to grow as a person and provided opportunities to study subjects that correlated with his ambitions. He was also instrumental in moving PCC’s Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society from a three-star status to a five-star distinction over the last two years.

Antonio Foster, Vice-Chair of the PCC Board of Directors, also spoke to graduates, praising them for their determination throughout their time at PCC, specifically during the pandemic. “Today, we stand here, triumphant in having successfully navigated unknown waters to arrive at the dock of graduation.  

Each of you is to be commended for your resilience and perseverance in making it to this momentous occasion!”

As students crossed the stage and again at the conclusion of the ceremony as students left the gymnasium, the crowd erupted in applause and showered cheers on their loved ones for earning their achievements. One hundred nineteen graduates crossed the stage Friday night, and overall, 311 degrees, diplomas, and certificates were officially awarded to the Piedmont Community College class of 2022. To watch the entire commencement ceremony, visit PCC’s Facebook page at facebook.com/piedmontcc.

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