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RCC holds virtual 2020 Curriculum Graduation

Yasmin Cervantes, Randolph Community College Student Government Association President, spoke at RCC's virtual 2020 Curriculum Graduation, which debuted online June 8.
Yasmin Cervantes, Randolph Community College Student Government Association President, spoke at RCC's virtual 2020 Curriculum Graduation, which debuted online June 8.

Ceremony goes online due to COVID-19 pandemic

ASHEBORO — Across the country, the Class of 2020 has seen graduation ceremonies cancelled, rescheduled, or turned into virtual or drive-thru events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After its in-person ceremony was canceled, Randolph Community College debuted its 2020 Curriculum Graduation virtually Monday, June 8. The original graduation was scheduled for May 13 at the Fieldhouse in the Greensboro Coliseum Complex. In all, 422 students received their degrees, diplomas, and certificates.

Two of those graduates were Student Government Association President and Randolph Early College High School student Yasmin Cervantes and RECHS classmate Saray Morales.

Saray Morales
Randolph Early College High School student Saray Morales earned her associate degree at Randolph Community College recently. The College held a virtual ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When I first found out that graduation was cancelled, I was pretty disappointed,” Morales said. “I had worked hard throughout high school to complete my Associate in Science, and I just found out that I’m actually receiving both my associate degrees in science and in arts.”

Morales, who will be attending the University of North Carolina Wilmington in the fall, said she watched RCC’s virtual graduation.

“Although it wasn’t the same as a formal graduation, I still felt satisfied with my accomplishments and my friends’ accomplishments as well,” said Morales, who plans on majoring in nursing on a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner track. “Due to the graduation ceremony being canceled my friends and I decided to have a small get-together to celebrate. My family is also throwing me a small celebration when things get better.”

Cervantes said she, too, was disappointed that graduation was cancelled.

“I, like many other graduates, was expecting a traditional graduation at the Greensboro Coliseum,” she said. “I thought that the college was not doing enough to give us our expected graduation, but when I saw the sudden spike of COVID cases the week after we got word graduation was canceled, I felt relief. I would not have to choose between a ceremony and my health. I would not have to make my family choose between seeing me graduate and their wellbeing.”

Cervantes, who is going to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the fall, participated in the virtual ceremony, addressing her classmates.

“I went in for the recording of the speech and didn’t let my friends or family truly read it until it was released,” she said. “When it was released, I shared links and downloads with my family virtually. Because I am Latina/Hispanic and the majority of my family only speaks Spanish, I translated the speech into Spanish to make sure they felt included in our virtual celebration.”

RCC President Dr. Robert S. Shackleford Jr. opened the virtual ceremony, welcoming the viewers to the presentation, which was recorded in the R. Alton Cox Learning Resources Center Auditorium on the Asheboro Campus.

“While this is not the kind of graduation ceremony that any of us anticipated even a few months ago, our pride and celebration of our students' success is as real and as intense and as overflowing as it ever could be if we were all gathered together in an auditorium,” he said. “While we're grateful for technology that allows us to have this remote graduation ceremony, our pride in your accomplishments is neither remote nor technological. It's very personal and it's very real. We're so proud of all that you have accomplished.”

Shackleford then thanked the College’s faculty and staff, Board of Trustees, and Senior Leadership Team.

“It takes quite a team to make RCC who and what we are,” he said “There are many people who are fully devoted to our students and our mission who work together to make RCC the finest institution of higher education that I've ever been a part of.

“Together, our trustees, our senior leadership team, our faculty and staff are fully dedicated to the mission and the purpose of RCC, which is creating opportunities, changing lives.”

Shackleford addressed the family, friends, and employers who supported and encouraged the graduates, and congratulated the Class of 2020.

Cervantes then gave the commencement address to her fellow graduates.

“I understand the feelings of disillusion and anxiety the situation we are in may cause, but I am so grateful that we were given the opportunity to celebrate our success virtually,” she said. “At the beginning of 2020, we set up goals for the new semester, plans for spring break, and how we would spend our summer. This global tragedy ruined all of that. But that's what life is: Just when we think we have it all figured out; something happens. Not only can we overcome these crazy situations thrown at us, we can thrive in them. In life, many of our plans can be re rewritten by anything as small as accidentally deleting an email with important dates or as big as the global pandemic. But we will flourish into more experienced and flexible people.

“So congratulations, Class of 2020. We made it here despite trials and tribulations. Whether you came to RCC right after high school, waited a couple of years before coming back to get your degree, successfully completed the early college program, or any other program through your high school, RCC was glad to have you.”

Shackleford followed, calling attention to some of the graduates’ special accomplishments and honors as noted in the graduation program, which was mailed to each graduate along with their diploma.

“At Randolph Community College, our mission is creating opportunities and changing lives,” he said. “Please understand that this is not just a catch phrase. We're not just interested in passing out these certificates and diplomas and degrees for you to hang on your walls. ... When a potential employee employer considers you for a job, it's not just a diploma that he or she sees on your resumé. It’s all that diploma means. Through multiple semesters of hard work, you have grown and matured and demonstrated a great work ethic and you have demonstrated the kind of character and the kind of grit that they want to have in the people they hire.

“Don't let anyone limit in your mind what your potential is. Don't let anyone else tell you how high you can go or how far you can reach. With your education and your hard work, you can be anything in the world you want to be. So live your best life. Go live your dream. The best is yet to be.”

Vice President for Instructional Services Suzanne Rohrbaugh then presented the candidates for graduation and conferring of the degrees.

“While this year may look a little different to us in the way that we are recognizing our graduates, we want each and every one of you to know just how special you are to us. And we do consider it a privilege every day that you've allowed us to be part of your educational journey,” she said. "We can't express to you how much this day brings joy to us and that we celebrate this day with you. ... To the Class of 2020, you have certainly proven that you can endure. And when life does throw you a curve ball, you know how to react and to respond. And for that, it will take you far in life. I wish each of you great success in the years ahead and, well, we're at the point of the ceremony that you all have been waiting for. It's my favorite day of the year.”

Dean of Curriculum Programs Melinda Eudy read the names of the graduates, followed by RCC Board of Trustees Chairman F. Mac Sherrill proclaiming the students graduates of RCC on behalf of the Board and congratulating them.

Vice President of Student Services G. Chad Williams closed the ceremony.

“Graduates, thank you for making the most of this opportunity to further your education,” he said. “And thank you for choosing to be a part of our family here at Randolph Community College. Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘I'm a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn't have the heart to let him down.’ Each of you can probably think of at least one person in your life about whom you could share these same words today. I encourage you to let those individuals know how much their support meant to you, and celebrate your success with them.

“Remember, greatness is not your destiny. It's a decision you have to make. You made a decision to attend RCC and to graduate. You did it, and we're all so proud of you. While you may all go your separate ways, you will forever have a special bond as a graduate of Randolph Community College. Wherever your path takes you, I encourage you to always strive to make a positive change in the lives of those in your community. Always be thankful for everything you've been given, and always look for opportunities to serve others.”
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