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College Celebrates 55th Graduation

May 25, 2023

On May 12, Martin Community College (MCC) celebrated its 55th graduation ceremony in the Riverside High School auditorium in Williamston NC. The capacity audience cheered on 172 graduates as they crossed the stage to receive degrees, diplomas, and certificates. In all, MCC served 188 graduates during its 2022-23 academic year.

Greg Sexton, Sr., Pastor of Macedonia Christian Church gave the invocation and MCC's adjunct music instructor, RaSheeda Waddell, sang a stirring rendition of the national anthem.

MCC President, Wesley Beddard welcomed the audience, remembered MCC Trustee Helen Davis with a moment of silence, and introduced the commencement speaker, Mr. Reginald Speight. Speight was born in Pitt County and raised in Wilson, NC where he currently resides. He graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1985 with a degree in Economics. Speight has served in numerous senior level management roles in North Carolina to include more than twenty years of nonprofit management experience, with fifteen of those years as Chief Executive Officer at Martin Community Action, Inc. He also served nine years in various leadership roles including Economic Development Director, District Director, and Acting Chief of Staff, in the Office of Congressman G. K. Butterfield, in North Carolina's First Congressional District. Speight currently serves as the U. S. Department of Agriculture State Director for Rural Development by appointment of President Joe Biden. He is responsible for the supervision of staff and general oversight of the Rural Housing Services, Rural Business Cooperative Services, and Rural Utility Services portfolios.

Speight spoke on the great value of community colleges and noted that he and his daughter both started their pursuit of higher education in NC's Community College system. He encouraged the students to be positive and to learn from their failures as well as to celebrate their victories. He discussed the value of having at least one friend who will be straight with you. He also warned them to be careful with social media and mindful of everything they post. Speight concluded his comments with, "Don't ever underestimate your power over others."

Dr. Brian Busch, MCC's Vice President of Student Services then presented the Program Awards and special awards. To be eligible to receive a Program Award, a student must be a candidate for graduation, have a minimum overall GPA of 3.00, possess outstanding qualities in cooperation and initiative, and must be nominated by a full-time faculty member (advisor). The "Program Award" denotes a student's excellence in a particular MCC program.

The program awardees were as follows: Criminal Justice Technology - Todd T. Reddick, Medical Assisting - Emily Taylor Bryant, Medical Office Administration - Phyllis Barber, Orthopedic Technology - Edgar Nevarez Perez, Physical Therapist Assistant - Kaitlyn Richards Cutler, Public Safety Administration - Amber C. Carter, Business Administration - Lindsay B. Goupil, Cosmetology - Lashonda Smallwood, Associate in Arts - Sabrina Lynn Carver, Associate in Science - Hilary Paloma Martinez-Gomez, Early Childhood Education - Kelsey Patrice Huffman, Applied Engineering - Brandon Cadogan, Welding Technology - Molly Patricia Shell, and Equine Business and Equine Training Technology - Hannah Faith Thompson.

Dr. Busch then recognized MCC's first student to become a Scholar of Global Distinction, Devonte Joyner. Joyner, a Bertie Early College student, is graduating with both his Associate of Arts degree and High School diploma in 2023.

The Scholar of Global Distinction program is a collaboration between Martin Community College and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill's World View program. To earn the scholarly honor, Joyner completed 15 credit hours of globally intensive courses; participated in eight international activities; engaged in 30 hours of a global experience; and presented a capstone project related to the student's global experience.

This program focuses on highlighting the similarities and differences between cultures, including the diverse cultures of North Carolina, the United States, and the world. Devonte's cultural journey included a visit to the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, a virtual tour of Ireland, a trip to the Bahamas, and a research project on International Women of Distinction. In his capstone presentation, Joyner stated, "If we know about each other better, maybe, just maybe, we could see that we are all humans just like one another and can respect each other."

Business Administration Graduate, Lindsay Goupil, was then recognized for being MCC's Dallas Herring Award nominee. This award was established by the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) to honor the late Dr. Dallas Herring whose philosophy of "taking people where they are and carrying them as far as they can go" is the guiding principle of NCCCS. The award is given annually to a current or former community college student who best embodies Dr. Herring's philosophy. Each of NC's 58 Community Colleges nominates a student for the statewide award.

Goupil's nominator stated, "This student has consistently excelled at coursework; however, that is not the only criteria considered for this award. She, like many others, is a single mother who faces many of life's challenges. Despite that, she finds time to participate in campus activities and is an active member in Alpha Beta Gamma. She has shown leadership skills when working with other students. She always stays calm, uses active listening, and good communication skills to get her ideas across. She has the influence to persuade others to follow her direction. She has persevered through personal hardship and continues to look toward the future. Goupil will be continuing her education and has been accepted at the University of Mount Olive. She is a student who is to be admired and to emulate."

MCC's 2023 Academic Excellence Award was then presented to Hannah "Faith" Thompson. This award recognizes and encourages scholarship among students in the North Carolina Community College System. Each of NC's 58 Community Colleges annually honors a student who has set the highest possible goals and attained the pinnacle of academic success. Thompson, who earned her associate in applied science degrees in Equine Business and Equine Training was also her program award winner.

Thompson's nominators said, "She is bright, hard-working, trustworthy, patient, compassionate, and a genuinely well-rounded person; someone that you can depend on at the end of the day. When confronted with a problem, she is always willing to ask, What can I do differently to improve this?' She is always challenging herself, wanting to become a better rider, and student."

MCC's 2023 Distinguished Graduate award, which is based on scholarship, civic engagement, and demeanor, was then presented to Kaitlyn Richards Cutler, a PTA (Physical Therapist Assistant) student, who resides in Beaufort County.

Dr. Busch stated, "This year's Distinguished Graduate got her first look into the health care field in high school when she elected to take Allied Health courses. This led her to attend ECU, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Recreational Therapy with an emphasis in aquatics and Ai Chi. However, she changed direction and was admitted to MCC to pursue an education in the Physical Therapist Assistant program."

With an already rich history of volunteering for the Special Olympics, Senior Olympics, the STAR Splash Program, Stop Hunger Now, and Summer Feeding Programs, Cutler redoubled her energy in becoming MCC's SGA President, serving as an ex-officio member on the MCC Board of Trustees, and earning membership in MCC's Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. She was also elected by her peers as Vice President of the PTA Program Club, representing her cohort over the course of her two years at MCC. Cutler did all of this while negotiating the rigor of the PTA Program and maintaining a GPA of 3.724.

Clinical instructors have described her as "a great asset to the profession." They go onto to say that she "will be a great PTA." Fellow students and faculty report that this student is a natural leader, organizer, and is happy to be a champion for her peers.

Cutler was then invited to be seated on the stage and participate in the remainder of the graduation ceremony and lead her fellow graduates in the time-honored tradition of turning their tassels.

Instructors representing each of MCC's departments then took turns at the podium presenting the candidates for graduation from their areas of study. Dr. Dean McCall presented the Allied Health students. Curtis Hyler introduced the Business, Technology, and Cosmetology candidates. Daniel Price represented the Education and College Transfer Department. Dwayne Evans called the names for Advanced Manufacturing and Automotive, and Tammie Thurston presented the Equine students.

MCC Trustee and Board Chairman, Dr. Derrick Wilkins, was then joined by MCC's Distinguished Graduate, Kaitlyn Cutler, to confer 118 degrees, 142 certificates, and 17 diplomas to 188 graduates.

Pastor Sexton then gave the benediction after which, the graduates processed out of the auditorium amid their congratulatory family and friends.

Five Marshalls were on hand to help make the evening run smoothly. They were Tammy Bryant, Adam Dano, Victoria Miller, Amiya Smith, and Taylor Winstead. Marshalls are non-graduating MCC students who have a cumulative grade point average (gpa) of at least 3.75 after completing at least 12 credit hours.