RCC College and Career Readiness graduates persevere to reach goal

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College and Career Readiness graduates move their tassels during the graduation ceremony, held Thursday, Dec. 12, in the R. Alton Cox Learning Resources Center Auditorium on Randolph Community College’s Asheboro Campus.

ASHEBORO (Dec. 18, 2019)

Twenty-eight students participated in the College and Career Readiness graduation ceremony out of 40 High School Equivalency Diploma graduates and five Adult High School Diploma graduates who were eligible Thursday, Dec. 12, at the R. Alton Cox Learning Resources Center Auditorium at Randolph Community College.

Three of the graduates spoke — Alex Ruiz, Randy Perry, and Kenneth Brown.

Ruiz was originally enrolled in Randolph Early College High School, but had to drop out due to unforeseen circumstances, including a sibling in the hospital. Once his brother’s health improved, he returned to RCC to explore his options.

“My counselors guided me to the CCR department,” Ruiz said. “I was welcomed by the sweet people here. They helped me decide to begin which path I wanted to do in this program. My message to you all is: When one door closes, another door opens, so don’t wait for that closed door. Keep moving and unlock your next door.”

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High School Equivalency graduate Randy Perry speaks to the crowd.
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Former Miss Randolph County and current Miss Cabarrus County Tiffany Rush gives the graduation address.

Perry, who is 60-years-old, thanked everyone in the crowd for coming to the ceremony, including many family members.

“My graduation was a great milestone for me and the lifetime achievement,” he said. “Now I have people who have encouraged me and believed in me, and it is so rewarding and such a good feeling. My teachers at [RCC] were such a major part of my work and efforts to do well in school. Although I'm 60 years young, it meant so much to me to be able to inspire and encourage young men and old men that they, too, can achieve this great accomplishment.

“I also want to thank the staff at RCC for allowing this program to be offered at our facility. I'm an inmate from the Randolph correctional facility here in Asheboro. RCC offers this program to inmates who want to learn and obtain their high school equivalency diploma. We have a classroom setting. It's just real school. And we work really hard and I want you all to know that I've been incarcerated since 1992, and I've been through six or seven community colleges, I have many certificates, but I've never had my high school diploma. I can say firsthand, I've never met the president of a community college. I’ve never met a vice president. It really touched my heart when they came in and dropped in on us. It was such a warm feeling.”

Brown dropped out of school during his junior year, taking an entry-level job in the textile industry and working there for 40 years.

“Over that time, I began to feel brain-dead,” he said. “In hopes of finding another job, I felt that I needed to jump-start my brain. I've always been one to never finish anything. For years, I thought about going back to school. Finally, I decided I was going to go back to school, to jump-start my brain, to finish what I’d started many years ago. I proudly stand before you tonight as a graduate as a testament that it is never too late to finish what you started. My brain has been stimulated; I feel confident.

RCC President Dr. Robert S. Shackleford Jr. gave the welcome, noting the many graduations he has attended. He then spoke about his mother, whose father died when she was a teenager and who dropped out of school and took a job in the mill to help her family.

“I love graduation,” he said, listing several, but saying that those were not his favorite. “My mother got married, and had her children, me and my two sisters, and she always made every effort to encourage us to get the education that she herself was never afforded the opportunity to get. Many years later, after I was married and out of college and out of graduate school, my mother went to our local community college. She told them she had dropped out of high school. She signed up for their adult education classes and after several semesters she completed her work and she graduated high school. I knew how unlikely it seemed that she would ever achieve it. I knew how hard she worked for it, and I knew how much she deserved it. That was my favorite graduation. I feel that way about you being here tonight.”

Former Miss Randolph County and current Miss Cabarrus County Tiffany Rush gave the graduation address. A RECHS valedictorian and current Appalachian State University student, Rush was born with Turner’s Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder with a 2-percent chance of survival.

“The important thing to remember is that we all carry heavy loads — we just may carry them differently than other people do,” she said. “After all, a good story has to have conflict, excitement, and struggles. You may have made it to this moment by different paths and roads, but you made it here. This great achievement requires three main qualities: Courage, discipline, and commitment. It took immense courage for you to take the first step toward your personal and professional goals. You had to have incredible discipline to take classes after a long workday or when other responsibilities overlapped. You had to be committed — completing homework and studying can be easy to overlook, especially when you already have a job, family, or other things going on. These three characteristics shine brightly through each and every one of you, and they empower you all on this journey. And the beautiful thing is, is your story does not end here.”

She then presented a $20 bill to the crowd, ripped it, crumpled it up, stepped on it, asking the crowd if they would take it if she offered it to them at each step.

“The value of the money does not change,” Rush said. “It got stepped on. It got rained on. It’s still $20. I want you to remember that whatever you go through, your value stays the same.”

Elbert Lassiter, Vice President for Workforce Development and Continuing Education, and Jordan Williamson, Director of Adult Basic Education, ESOL and Adult High School, presented the candidates for graduation. The awarding of the diplomas was handled by F. Mac Sherrill, Chairman of the RCC Board of Trustees, and Williamson gave the faculty invitation and closing remarks, referencing College and Career Readiness In-Take Specialist Dahlia Oldham, who graduated from the program 10 years ago.

“As a department, we believe in always putting the students first in everything we do,” Williamson said. “You guys are absolutely amazing. This is such a unique group of graduates — you are all are so goal-driven and focused on what comes next. ... The truth is, there is no roadmap, although it probably would make things much simpler if there were. I think of someone who walked across this very same stage that you did tonight 10 years ago. ... She would say to you, ‘Just keep pushing, do not give up because you can do this, and I believe in you.’ ”

Adult Basic Education Instructor Philip Schuyler was the faculty marshal.

The graduates listed alphabetically by their cities of residence follow:
High School Equivalency Graduates
Archdale: Maria Dominguez.
Asheboro: Dakota Ball, Shawn Carson, Tiffany Creed, Kasey Hazelwood, Charity Lamar, Nancy Neese, Bryce Roig, Alex Ruiz, Mohamed Salamatou, Caleb Shinault, Elijah Stevenson, Erica Talent, Jose Tinoco Jr., Sandra Vargas, Maviel Vazquez-Arriaga, Leslie Vences.
Burlington: Edson Hernandez.
Columbia (S.C.): Dustin Garrett.
Durham: Franklin Goy.
Franklin: Kevin Johnston.
Franklinville: Christina Belmontes Gonzalez.
Lexington: Heriberto Mendez, Morgan Scott.
Liberty: Kenneth Brown.
Monroe: Randy Perry.
Pageland (S.C.): Lakeya Powe.
Ramseur: Christina Brown, Randael Taylor.
Randleman: Hollie Bailey, Terri Cooke, Danielle Gayness, Wyatt Robinson, Cheyenne Skryzmoski.
Robbins: Shane Childers.
Sophia: Darren Vaughan.
Trinity: Brittany Hill, Hannah Smith.

Adult High School Diploma Graduates
Liberty: Travis Smith.
Ramseur: Shelby Moser.
Randleman: Brittany Merrick.
Seagrove: Ivy Street.
Sophia: Paige Wilson.