Basic Skills graduates encouraged to dream of better futures

Graduates of Vance-Granville Community College’s Adult Basic Skills programs received a double dose of encouragement to dream of better futures and work to make those dreams come true at their commencement exercises on May 3.

The honorees were among those students who have completed either the Adult High School Diploma program or the High School Equivalency program in the past year.

The principal commencement speaker for the ceremony was Dr. Dorwin L. Howard, Sr., retired superintendent of Granville County Public Schools. The Oxford native followed at the podium a presentation by Jennifer Pascual of Henderson, speaking on behalf of the graduating students. A native of Vance County, Pascual completed her High School Equivalency in April after attending classes on the main campus.

“Do you have a dream?” Dr. Howard asked the graduates. “Do you have a vision of what your future could look like? If you’ve not begun to dream already, I urge you to do so right now. The truth of the matter is that you cannot afford not to dream.”

Citing his work as a school administrator, Dr. Howard recalled student athletes who had size, speed, strength and a natural talent for athletics. Those attributes, however, were inadequate without an initiative to work, the discipline to practice and the humility to follow the guidance of coaches, he said. “Champions are not born. They are made,” Dr. Howard said, noting the process begins with a dream.

Citing Amos 6:1 from the Old Testament, Dr. Howard urged the graduates to apply themselves. “Woe unto you who will not apply yourself in order to make yourself better. Woe unto you who are looking for the easy way out,” he said.

“I dare you to dream tonight. Dream of entering the workplace. Envision yourself climbing the ladder of success. Dream of continuing your education to help you advance in your career. Dream of earning well. Dream of living well…. But note that dreams don’t become reality by chance. They don’t happen by luck. Dreams begin in your head and heart and become real as you work to make them come true.”

He encouraged the graduates to explore possibilities by reading about what they would like to become and do in life, to be willing to take risks to succeed and to continue to be diligent and work hard. “Dreamers make things happen,” he said.

“Like your parents, relatives and friends, like your instructors and counselors who worked with you and the administrators here at Vance-Granville Community College, I too believe in you and I believe that one day you will make your dreams come true,” he concluded.

Student speaker Pascual described for her fellow graduates what had not always been an easy road in life because of family and financial challenges. She described having a dream as a 12-year-old of being a pediatrician; however, that dream faded when her mother and father separated, her family faced the future without a father, her mother battled diabetes while working for 25 years in the tobacco fields, and a brother was deported.

Jennifer Pascual of Henderson addresses her fellow VGCC Adult Basic Skills graduates. (VGCC photo)

“I gave up on my dreams. I also wanted to give up on life,” she said. “But then I had to think about my mother and what she would go through.”

“While it’s not been easy for my family, I’m glad I made it this far to get my High School Equivalency diploma. I didn’t think I would be able to graduate this year because of financial struggles,” she said. “This program got me focused on my future, a better future for myself and family…. As this program has come to an end for me, I want to make my dreams a new reality by becoming a registered nurse.”

She praised her instructors, including Glenn Alston whose teaching helped her “get the hang of math,” and the department chair for Basic Skills, Dr. Greg Nash, who encouraged her to pursue the curriculum nursing program at VGCC now.

“I now realize not to let fear stop me from pursuing my dreams,” she said. “If I can do this, you can, too. Dream big! Chase your dreams until you catch them!”

Dr. Levy Brown, VGCC’s vice president of academic affairs, announced a special incentive to the graduates to continue their education at Vance-Granville. “Commencement, as you know, does not mean an ‘ending.’ It means a ‘beginning,’ and that is especially true on this occasion tonight,” he said. “The diploma that you will receive will allow you to achieve your dreams wherever you may go.”

As an extra incentive for graduates to begin their collegiate studies, Dr. Brown announced that each graduate would receive a certificate worth free tuition and fees for one semester of courses in curriculum programs or continuing education courses at VGCC, absorbing costs not covered by federal financial aid. “This certificate for tuition and fees is our way of saying ‘congratulations’ and ‘keep going,’” he said.

In conferring diplomas to the graduates, Dr. Stelfanie Williams, the president of VGCC, praised the graduates and applauded the Basic Skills faculty for preparing students to succeed.

After Dr. Nash announced the candidates for graduation, Dr. Brown assisted Dr. Williams in presenting diplomas.

Also on the program were Tiffany Hunter and Owenwiston Raymond III, both 2018 HSE diploma graduates, who provided the welcome and introduced the student speaker, respectively; Michael Young, an instructor in Basic Skills, who introduced Dr. Howard; Dawn Michelle Tucker, dean of Continuing Education and Basic Skills, who offered remarks; and the Rev. Terry Huffines of First United Methodist Church of Henderson, who provided the invocation and benediction.

More photos: Check out our album on Flickr!

Video from the Ceremony: Click here to watch the video on YouTube.

Image Information: Retired Granville County Schools Superintendent Dr. Dorwin Howard of Oxford addresses VGCC Adult Basic Skills graduates. (VGCC photo)