Cheers, smiles, and pride were shared on May 19 as Piedmont Community College (PCC) celebrated the accomplishments of the class of 2023, earning degrees, diplomas, and certifications.
This year’s ceremony was held in Caswell County for the first time at the auditorium-styled Civic Center. Nine hundred seats were perfectly pointed at the stage, ensuring family and friends could ceremoniously celebrate their loved one’s successes.
Graduates lined up in dark green regalia, draped with various colored chords and stoles representing academic success and student engagement; some had decorated caps with flowers, childhood pictures, inside jokes, or spiritual messages to add a personal touch to their garb. Then as the graduates entered the gym, the awaiting crowd roared with supportive joy.
The third class of graduates from the Person Early College for Innovation and Leadership (PECIL) were recognized, with 26 earning a degree, diploma, or certificate, many with honors. A formal PECIL graduation is May 25, at 7 p.m., at the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex in Uptown Roxboro.
An additional 50 Career and College Promise students were recognized as they will not only graduate from their respective high schools later this month or in June, but they also completed an associate degree, diploma, or certificate from PCC. Sixteen of these students are graduating from Bartlett-Yancey High School, three are from Roxboro Community School, one is homeschooled, and 30 are from Person High School.
During the ceremony, Tanya Evans, Chair of the PCC Board of Trustees, congratulated the graduates and announced it would be her last PCC graduation as a member of the Board. Evans served as a member of the Board of Trustees for 14 years and nearly four as Chair. In her speech, she shared that her son was graduating from PCC as a member of the Class of 2023 and recognized all that graduates’ support systems have done to play an instrumental part in their loved ones’ achievements. “Thank you for standing by your graduate as they pursued this exciting change in their life…The importance of your support cannot be overstated. It truly is the foundation that made today possible.”
She then spoke directly to the graduates. “We sincerely hope that your experiences at PCC have effectively prepared you for the next path chosen as you look to achieve your life’s purpose. Continue to demonstrate strong perseverance and know that we have faith in you as you dare to accomplish dreams that may seem beyond reach!”
Dr. Pamela G. Senegal, President of PCC, echoed these remarks and added that this be the starting point of their education and connection with the College.
“We encourage you to continue learning, teaching, and sharing with those around you,” Senegal said. “Set an example for those who follow and may sit right here, in cap and gown, one day down the road.”
Senegal compared these thoughts to PCC’s 2023 Alumnus of the Year, who embodies those pillars through her experience, Brandie Powell.
As a 2018 graduate from PCC, Powell shows her support for her community and the College as a dedicated member of the PCC Alumni Partnership, serving and supporting the College while encouraging others to pursue their education at their hometown college by sharing her experiences.
“Sometimes it was amazing; other times were challenging. Success is often sweeter because of the hills and valleys along the way,” Powell said. “I am so proud we have this awesome community college that makes the impossible possible for everyone. You set your mind to completing your degree, you succeeded, and no one can take that away.”
The guest speaker for the night was an individual who defines ambition with strong ties to the local area. North Carolina State Representative Ray Jeffers is a Person County native with a century farm previously owned by his great-grandfather, a PCC alumnus, and the youngest president in the history of the NC Association of County Commissioners North Carolina State Representative. His message to the class was the impact of key personal decisions.
“You would not be here if you did not decide to enroll at PCC, and making a decision like that can be difficult,” Jeffers said. “We often get stuck in the now, but you were thinking about the future, about this day, and how this education would benefit your and your loved ones’ futures.”
“So, what’s next?” Jeffers continued. “Channel that same energy you had when you decided to enroll at PCC and continue to improve yourself in a way that is consistent with your unique story and in a way that can elevate those around you.”
“You dreamed this day would come, and it did. Don’t stop dreaming…surround yourself with like-minded thinkers with ambitious goals and dreams and support each other to thrive.”
Before calling graduates to receive their credentials, Dr. Senegal announced PCC’s 2023 Academic Excellence Award recipient, Ashley Castillo-Rojas. 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.
“This award is a true honor,” Castillo-Rojas said. “I just wanted to consistently do my best, and this award proves the dedication and effort I had while I attended PCC and the support I received from my instructors, family, and God as I worked toward my degree. I am beyond blessed and extremely excited for the next chapter in my life.”
Castillo-Rojas, who would later be announced as earning her Associate in Arts in Teacher Preparation degree, graduating Magna Cum Laude from PCC, will continue her higher education at the University of North Carolina Greensboro to pursue a degree in elementary education. Her career goal is to provide foundational education to future generations, be the best teacher possible, and support her students to succeed in the classroom.
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 over their loved ones for earning their achievements. One hundred forty-six graduates crossed the stage Friday night, and overall, 340 degrees, diplomas, and certificates were officially awarded to the Piedmont Community College class of 2023. To watch the entire commencement ceremony, visit PCC’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/piedmontcc.