A record 137 graduates — including Davis’ Paul E. Golder and Thomas’ Cory S. Hanlin County — earned a record 167 credentials at Eastern WV Community and Technical College’s 2016 Commencement May 14, as the Potomac Highlands community college continued to grow this year. The cheers of friends and families, marking the graduates’ shared success, rang through the Moorefield Middle School gymnasium, and three Commencement speakers focused on the importance of taking personal responsibility to overcome adversity and failure, and to achieve success.
Eastern awarded 73 college certificates and 94 associate degrees to the students of the fall 2015 and the spring 2016 graduating classes, some of whom earned two and three credentials. Hanlin, who graduated with honors, and Golder each received 2 certificates, in Electromechanical Technology and Wind Energy Technology, and an associate in applied science (AAS) degree in Wind Energy Technology.
Eastern President Charles ‘Chuck’ Terrell congratulated the graduates on the “milestone” event in their lives, and recognized the pride in their accomplishment that streamed through the assembly from all in attendance.
Despite their achievements, both AnnaMarie See, fall 2015, and Matthew Persinger, spring 2016, expressed astonishment at where they found themselves that day. In his Commencement cap and gown, Persinger, of Mathias, said he “never thought I would be dressed like this and speaking at a commencement ceremony.”
See, of Moorefield, acknowledged a similar feeling. “I still feel like I have to pinch myself,” she said, “that I am actually standing here getting ready to graduate college at 57 years old.” Although at first a bit scared by the age differences between herself and many of her classmates, See said the “younger people” she studied with had “been such an inspiration to me.”
Persinger, who dropped out of high school in 1990, and earned a GED a year later, pointed out that “the community college experience was different than the college experience portrayed in the movies.” The graduates, who ranged in age across three decades, had “reached this point by following a multitude of paths.”
As a cancer survivor, See’s journey to a college degree had taken her through 39 radiation treatments and several hospital stays. Faced with that life-threatening challenge, she took responsibility for her choices, “worked hard” and “never missed any assignment. I had my laptop, and books spread over my hospital bed, and got my work done.” She graduated with honors and earned membership in Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges.
For her success, See credited Eastern’s faculty and staff, who “were absolutely outstanding.” She thanked them for “their gift of knowledge, and that is a priceless gift to give.” And though she had previously held leadership positions in organizations she worked with and belonged to, she emphasized that before attending Eastern “never had I realized the potential I had within myself.”
Persinger, also an honors graduate and a member of Phi Theta Kappa, also spoke about the value of taking personal responsibility to confront challenges, focusing on those that arise in everybody’s life as “failures.”
“We all fail. Many of us do it quite often,” he acknowledged, and “it can make us want to give up.” Despite that, “you can always control how you react to your circumstances,” and “the key to success is the ability to confront your failures and learn from them.” The “primary tool” for doing that, he insisted, “is responsibility.”
Keynoter Chris Wood, who by age 30 “had started more businesses than I can count on one hand,” agreed. “I failed at 75% of them, even the ones I worked at for years. And sometimes, that fail hurt. But success is defined by the actions you take when you fail.”
If Wood, like Persinger, hadn’t already learned the power of taking responsibility for one’s own actions, in September, 2010 fate impressed it upon him forever. Held at gunpoint in Silver Spring, MD by a suicide bomber wrapped in pipe bombs, he cringed on the floor for three hours “as I prepared myself to die.” Then he realized that “if I stood there and did nothing, I wouldn’t be able to take it back.” Signaling to the two other hostages with him, he counted down with his fingers, and together they ran, and saved themselves.
Now co-founder and co-owner of Wardensville’s Redwood & Company, and co-founder and executive director of Lost City’s LGBT Technology Partnership and Institute, Wood acknowledged that “even the best plans can’t prepare you for life’s curve balls.” So he pointed to the importance of setting “many goals.” If you fail at one, he said, “pick yourself up and learn from that failure, set more goals, work hard, and I promise, you will succeed.”
To make success happen, he advised graduates also to surround themselves “with good, compassionate, loving and caring people” whose support might include “telling you things you don’t want to hear but probably need to.” And because high debt and poor credit raise large obstacles, crucially, he said, “get a handle on your personal finances.”
Each of the three speakers advised the graduates to realize their personal potential. See encouraged them to “take responsibility, and do what’s necessary to achieve your dreams.”
Persinger took her cue, urging them not “to settle for less than your dreams. Persevere. Work harder than your competition. Keep your goals clear in your mind.”
And entrepreneur Wood reminded them, “From cradle to grave, life is short. So go out and be the best you possibly can!”
For more information about Eastern’s financial aid opportunities, programs of study, workforce training, community education and events, call 304-434-8000; or toll free: 877-982-2322; or check the College’s website: www.easternwv.edu.
Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College is a comprehensive and equal opportunity community and technical college that makes educational resources accessible to the families, communities, and employers of Grant, Hampshire, Hardy, Mineral, Pendleton and Tucker counties. Eastern is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.