The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
College holds first fall commencement
By PAMELA GOULD
Kevin Jackson started turning his life around his senior year in high school when he recognized that his difficult past didn’t need to define him.
At age 8, he and his two younger siblings were taken from their mother and placed in foster care, leaving him sad, lonely and lacking motivation to apply himself.
A few years later, the three siblings’ foster parents adopted them, but the Caroline County youth still felt hurt and misunderstood.
But when he hit 18, he decided to set a new course and start studying in earnest at Germanna Community College.
He told himself: “Don’t let a situation that I couldn’t control in my past be an excuse for circumstances that I’m in today.”
Jackson started setting goals and pursuing them, he told Germanna’s first fall graduating class at the Fredericksburg Expo and Conference Center Monday night.
And today, at 31, Jackson is director of respiratory care and pediatric pulmonary services at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond. He is also married, has a 21-month-old son and is taking his education to the limit, currently working on his doctorate in public health policy.
Germanna’s first December graduation ceremony reflected the season with the Fredericksburg Community Concert Band playing Christmas music as students and their families and friends arrived.
At least three faculty members donned black Santa hats—each trimmed in a different color—along with their black robes.
And, unlike a spring-time graduation where it’s chiefly sandals and heels, some female graduates sported black boots with their burgundy gowns.
Virginia Community College System Chancellor Glenn DuBois commended the students for their spirit in forging ahead undaunted when an August earthquake damaged the Spotsylvania County campus’ main building and forced them to relocate or reshape some classes.
“That spirit is what makes our students difference-makers,” DuBois said.
Monday night’s ceremony was prompted by the growth in the number of graduates at the spring commencement, which had maxed out on space at the Expo Center for friends and family, Germanna President David Sam said.
May’s ceremony broke a record with 1,000 people receiving degrees or certificates.
Last night, 483 students had earned associate’s degrees, 303 had earned non-credit certificates, and 107 had earned career studies certificates, college spokesman Mike Zitz said.
There was a moment of humor during the awarding of degrees Monday night when all students receiving an associate of science were asked to stand and remain standing.
One young man, Darren Dole II of Spotsylvania County, stood alone, forcing Sam and college Vice President Ann Woolford to modify their statements from the plural to singular pronouns. He was the only grad receiving that degree at the ceremony.
Students graduating Monday night had finished their academic requirements over the summer or during the just-ended fall semester.
Spotsylvania resident Carla Marie Craft was among the students receiving an associate’s degree. In the spring she will be attending Virginia Tech, where she plans to major in psychology and communications.
The Student Government Association president served as student speaker, commending her classmates for the sacrifices they made to reach the graduation milestone.
The 19-year-old said she’d taken pay cuts, missed social events and stayed up until 2:30 a.m. writing papers to get her degree, and knew others had taken similar steps.
She urged her classmates to continue showing that kind of determination as they go forward in careers or academic training.
“Always strive to be the best that you can be and do the best job that you can do,” said Craft, who was homeschooled before starting her studies at Germanna.
Jackson began his Germanna studies after graduating from Caroline High School in 1999. He transferred to J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College to finish his associate’s degree after receiving financial aid there for his studies in respiratory therapy.
He now holds a bachelor’s degree in political science, a master’s in public health administration and is working toward his doctorate.
Jackson said he had “a dream that started to become reality” at Germanna.
He told the graduates to expect successes and failures in the future, but urged them to persevere, using tough times as a tool for learning.
“Understand success is not something you start, but something you finish,” he said. “So I challenge you all today to always get back up and finish.”
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972
GERMANNA’S FIRST FALL GRADUATES
Germanna Community College held its first fall semester graduation last night, awarding
the following degrees and certificates.
483 associate’s degrees
303 non-credit certificates
107 career studies certificates