Class of 2018 gets encouragement from Meredith VP, SGA leader

Dr. Jean Jackson returned home to offer inspiration to Vance-Granville Community College’s newest graduates, encouraging the Class of 2018 to make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead.

“In many ways, you are Vance-Granville Community College,” the Middleburg native told members of the 49th commencement exercises on May 11. “You are the very best advertisement of what is possible from work done here and how you apply that work as you go forward in your lives.”

Members of the class were joined by hundreds of family members and friends at the outdoor ceremony in front of the gazebo on Vance-Granville’s main campus.

“You’ve been prepared professionally,” Dr. Jackson said. “Now it’s up to you to see what will make you feel successful and be happy in life. You have all of the tools that you need, and it’s up to you to write the rest of your story.”

Currently serving as the vice president for college programs at Meredith College in Raleigh, the principal commencement speaker became a member of the English faculty at the Raleigh college in 1983 and continues to teach courses on English poetry of the Romantic Period, in addition to overseeing planning and budgeting for offices such as Academic and Career Planning, Athletics, Campus Police, the Dean of Students and Student Leadership and Service.

A 1971 graduate of what was Vance County High School, Dr. Jackson recalled the early days when VGCC was first called Vance County Technical Institute. Her family’s telephone number was only one digit off from that of the new college, she remarked, which led to “a lot of calls for the new college!” in apparent misdials.

“Your school work may be done, or done for now, but work will change and demand your ingenuity and skills and grit for the rest of your lives,” Dr. Jackson said. “All of us still have much to learn, even those of us who graduated long ago because the world is changing much more rapidly than are our institutions of higher learning.

“What you have learned here — your writing and research skills, your organizational skills, your collaborative skills and dozens and dozens of other skills that we could name — will help you whatever you choose to do in your work life…. Education, inspiration and support have served you well at Vance-Granville and if you give them the opportunity will serve you as guides for the rest of your long, happy and successful lives.”

Also offering inspiration to the Class of 2018 was the student speaker, Sovanny “Sophie” Taylor of Louisburg, speaking on behalf of her classmates.

VGCC, like the virtual assistant “Siri” of Apple’s phone and computer devices, can serve as a GPS, Taylor told the graduates. “We’ve made it to this day. Don’t look back and wonder what you could have done better or regret a road you didn’t take…. When we take a detour or meander away from our path, Siri says, ‘rerouting,’ and that’s what you have to do.”

“You’re a Vanguard, so I know everyone here is going to go on and do great things in their own way. Vance-Granville has prepared us for that,” she said. “Even if you miss a stepping stone, Vance-Granville will help you find your footing.”

A Franklin County Early College High School student, Taylor is only the second student from an early college program to serve as president of the VGCC Student Government Association and student member of the college’s Board of Trustees. She plans to continue her education this fall at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Following the speakers, Dr. Stelfanie Williams, president of VGCC, applauded the graduates for their achievements, announcing that 487 degrees and diplomas were being awarded to the Class of 2018. “You are to be commended for your dedication and achievement,” she told the graduates. “You are surrounded by your loved ones, family and friends and I know that they celebrate your success.”

The president added that the Class of 2018 includes 65 inductees into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and one third of the class has been recognized as honor graduates. She noted the diversity of the class, who included not only young Early College High School students, but also “others have attended college while taking care of families, and others who are the first in their families to earn a college degree.”

“You graduates truly reflect the living mission of Vance-Granville Community College,” Dr. Williams said.

Dr. Williams recognized Andrew Lynam, recipient of the North Carolina Community College System’s Academic Excellence Award, during her remarks. During the procession of graduates, the president paused to place a medallion on Lynam to honor his outstanding achievement. One student from each of the 58 colleges in the state system is honored with the award each year. Lynam graduated with an Associate in Applied Science degree in Welding Technology. A home-schooled student, he first enrolled at VGCC at age 16 through the college’s Career & College Promise program.

After Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Levy Brown presented the candidates for graduation, Board of Trustees chair Danny Wright and President Williams presented degrees and diplomas and congratulated the graduates.

Members of this year’s class, including those predicted to graduate at the end of the summer term in July, were awarded 207 Associate in Applied Science degrees in a variety of curriculum programs, 153 Associate in Arts degrees, 60 Associate in Science degrees and 53 technical and vocational diplomas. Many students graduated with more than one credential.

SGA President Taylor led the new graduates in ceremonially turning their tassels as the ceremony concluded. Music was provided by the Vance-Granville Community Band, conducted by Brian Miller. Bearing the ceremonial mace for commencement was Science Department Chair Steve McGrady, the college’s 2017-2018 Faculty Member of the Year. The invocation was given by Deborah F. Brown and the benediction by Donald C. Seifert, Sr., both members of the Board of Trustees.

Meredith College Vice President Dr. Jean Jackson delivers the commencement address at Vance-Granville Community College on May 11. (VGCC Photo)

Sovanny “Sophie” Taylor of Louisburg speaks on behalf of the graduates at Vance-Granville Community College on May 11. (VGCC photo)

Vance-Granville Community College President Dr. Stelfanie Williams places a medallion around the neck of Academic Excellence Award recipient Andrew Lynam of Youngsville, right. (VGCC photo)

More photos: Check out our Commencement 2018 album on Flickr!

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

Image Information: Meredith College Vice President Dr. Jean Jackson delivers the commencement address as the students await the presentation of degrees and diplomas at Vance-Granville Community College on May 11. (VGCC Photo)