Your turn — Proud of SVCC graduates

Published 12:30 pm Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Southside Virginia Community College hosted an in-person commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 14. The event, held on the Christanna Campus in Alberta, honored the accomplishments of students who graduated from all SVCC locations. A bit of rain fell, but as soon as the processional began, the rain stopped and the smiles came out!

Because of COVID restrictions during the past two years, this was my first opportunity since becoming president at SVCC to participate in a live graduation and to shake the hands of students as they walked across the stage. I was excited for the opportunity to share this important moment with our students and their families.

SVCC bestowed nearly 1,000 academic awards upon more than 800 individual graduates, including those who earned Associate of Arts and Sciences degrees, Associate of Applied Science degrees, and Career Studies and other Certificates. In addition, more than 300 individuals in our workforce programs received industry-recognized credentials.

We welcomed several special guests. Dr. Christopher J. Parker, who serves as the National Junior College Athletic Association president and chief executive officer, spoke to our graduates, offering encouragement and guidance drawn from his vast leadership experiences.

While addressing the graduates Dr. Parker said, “Don’t settle for average; if you push yourself to excellence you will find it, you will find it around you, you will find it in you and you will find it in others.”

Harold W. Clarke, director of the Virginia Department of Corrections, represented by Scott Richeson, deputy director of programs, education, and re-entry, received an Associate’s Degree in Humane Letters, an honorary award recognizing his distinguished achievements in support of our Campus Within Walls program. Graduating SVCC student Anna Stinson was recognized for being named to the Phi Theta Kappa All-USA All-Virginia Academic Team and Hayley Perkinson was awarded the Florence Daniel Riepe Kalbacker Award for Leadership and Community Service.

The ceremony’s highlight, of course, featured our graduating students. As they took giant steps into their futures, we joyfully celebrated their individual successes, and we acknowledged some mixed emotions as we said goodbye.

Saul Nunex understood. “Graduating has filled me with a rollercoaster of emotions,” he said, “but it means that all my hard work is finally paying off and I am being recognized for it.” Saul says his time at SVCC was a growing experience and an opportunity to rediscover himself. Now that he’s a graduate, Saul plans to enter the workforce.

Sakina Muhammad also felt excited about her accomplishments. She commented, “To be graduating from SVCC means a new beginning. Coming fresh into college as a high school graduate, I was very unsure about what I wanted to do, and what I wanted my future to look like. I now have a clearer mind, and goals I want to achieve moving forward.” Sakina plans to continue her studies, pursuing a degree in biology on her way to becoming a Physician’s Assistant.

Another graduating student, Canisha Glasgow, summed up her experience. “Graduating from SVCC meant a lot to me because, as a single mother, I was able to work while taking courses online to complete my Associates degree.” She credits the faculty and staff for helping her excel. “I am at my best and looking forward to all the great opportunities SVCC has prepared me for.” Canisha plans to continue her education at Old Dominion University where she will pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services.

Each student that walked across the stage had his or her own personal story of overcoming obstacles and achieving triumphs. I am immensely proud of all of them and grateful to have shared in their journeys.

DR. QUENTIN R. JOHNSON is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans 10 counties and the City of Emporia. He can be reached at quentin.johnson@southside.edu.