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Celebrating this year’s North Carolina community college graduates

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  • Several community colleges held their largest graduation ceremonies in 2023. EdNC has compiled NCCCS graduate stories from across the state.
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The North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) awards over 50,000 credentials each year. Last academic term, the system distributed roughly 65,695 curriculum credentials. And the year before, over 71,000. This year marked the largest graduating class for several community colleges including Blue Ridge Community College, Cleveland Community College, and Robeson Community College to name a few.

Graduation season is, perhaps, one of the most exciting times on a college campus. It’s a shared moment and the culmination of hard work and dedication draped in regalia. 

And behind each of those credentials awarded is a story. 

The NCCCS enrolls more than 500,000 individuals every year in pathways that lead to everything from a high school diploma to short-term workforce credentials to university transfer degrees. And they serve some of the most diverse student populations. 

“They are 16 years old and they’re 73 years old and they’re everything in between,” said Dr. Janet Spriggs, president of Forsyth Technical Community College in a previous interview. “They are working parents, single mothers, and they’re facing all kinds of life circumstances that most people don’t recognize.”

Graduates from Mitchell Community College. Courtesy of Mitchell Community College

Many of these students are adult learners. Last year, 50% of students enrolled in the NCCCS were 25 years and older. As an adult learner, balancing life, work, and school can be challenging. Graduation, then, is a moment to celebrate and recognize students for their determination and perseverance as they work to make their dreams a reality. 

This year, we are highlighting some of the graduate stories we’ve received from across the North Carolina Community College System.

Stories from around the state

Miranda Goodwin graduated this month from South Piedmont Community College with a degree in medical sonography. Goodwin received a New Century Scholarship in eighth grade to attend South Piedmont. According to a press release from the college, “she never wavered from her intention to go to South Piedmont, even as her classmates committed to four-year universities.”

“My parents always instilled in me that it’s important to be smart with your money, and that you need to make your money work for you.”

“I never felt like I was going to be missing out on something by coming to a community college. I felt like I was making a smart financial choice.”

Miranda Goodwin during an interview with South Piedmont
Miranda Goodwin. Courtesy of South Piedmont

Goodwin said the decision to enter the healthcare industry was personal. She wanted a job that provided a good salary and the opportunity to enjoy life – and a degree in medical sonography could help her do just that.

 “It would provide me a stable job, a stable income, and the work-life balance I wanted.”

Miranda Goodwin during an interview with South Piedmont

Goodwin credited the affordability of South Piedmont, financial aid, and the money she earned working part time to her success. As a result, Goodwin is graduating free of student debt. Goodwin has a job offer on the table and feels confident in her ability to provide for herself.

Sometimes graduation ceremonies include multiple family members. That’s the case with several Pitt Community College (PCC) graduates. This month, Tanisha Wilson graduated with an associate in Nursing, and her son, Christopher Davis, graduated with his associate in arts. Tanisha’s brother, Marquette Wilson, also graduated with an associate in Business Administration Marketing.

“I started at PCC back in 1999 unfortunately I stopped to raise my boys and work full time. I decided to return in 2013 and finish taking my prerequisites for nursing school. I’ve wanted to be a nurse since 3rd grade. We motivated each other by checking in with one another weekly. I would tell future Bulldogs that anything worth having requires dedication. There will be times when you want to give up but you have to remember why you started.”

Tanisha Wilson during an interview with Pitt Community College.

“I started at PCC because I believed it was the best option for my goals at the time. I’m happy to say I was right. We all knew what the end goal was and that was enough motivation for all of us. We encouraged each other to see it through, always trying to finish what we started. I’d tell future students that PCC is a great place to start if you’re still unsure what you want to major in. They have a great staff designed to advise and encourage you in whatever you plan on doing”.

Christopher Davis during an interview with Pitt Community College

“I wanted a better life and higher education. We encouraged each other to never settle for less. I would tell others that PCC is a wonderful school and filled with endless opportunities”.

Marquette Wilson during an interview with Pitt Community College

According to this McDowell Technical Community College press release:

“If you know someone in desperate need of life-changing advice, Donald Justin Vess—D.J. to his friends and co-workers—is your go-to person. He’s become something of an expert on the subject. He’s been there, done that and has the scars to prove it. He’s living proof that no matter where you find yourself in life, with the right help and the right support, you can recover against seemingly insurmountable odds.”

Vess graduated this month with his associate degree in Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Technology (HVAC) and he did so with a 4.0 GPA.

Vess’ story is one of hope after a series of events in his life that Vess said weren’t always good. After high school, Vess said he got caught up with the wrong crowd and eventually found himself in prison. Vess experienced several other incidences that led him to low points. Graduating with this degree is something he said has opened the door to many other opportunities. It’s a story of redemption, as the college coined it. You can read the full story here.

D.J. Vess. Courtesy of McDowell Tech

Cape Fear Community College (CFCC) recognized several student stories. One of those is the story of Maria Mandujano. Mandujano graduated from CFCC’s dental hygiene program. According to Cape Fear, she is a wife, a mom to a 10-year-old boy, and she commuted three hours each day to and from school – showing her unwavering commitment to her studies. Mandujano would like to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the next few years, but at the moment, plans to take the time to enjoy and take in all of her achievements and accomplishments.

Each year, the NCCCS honors students from the 58 community colleges through the Academic Excellence Award. Mitchell Community College’s recipient was Ryan Rodriguez. Rodriguez received his associate in applied science degree in Human Services Technology while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. He has also completed a certification in Human Services and Substance Abuse. Rodriguez plans to become a licensed addictions counselor. You can read more about Rodriguez and the Mitchell Community College graduation ceremony here.

Zachary Moore is a recent graduate of Central Piedmont Community College. Before enrolling, Moore had been out of school for five years. Throughout his college journey, Moore experienced challenges, including the loss of his grandfather before his first semester. Then, in 2022, he abruptly lost his father. Even when he wanted to give up, Moore told Central Piedmont staff he reminded himself why he had enrolled – and that was to make his family proud. Moore graduated with a 4.0 GPA and has been accepted to both Columbia University and UNC-Chapel Hill.

Congratulations to the Class of 2023!

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas is the Director of Postsecondary Attainment for EducationNC.