WASHINGTON, N.C.— Beaufort County Community College held its commencement exercise for its graduating students on May 11.
The Class of 2023 saw 333 students eligible to participate in the ceremony, having earned certificates, diplomas, or degrees. This is almost 100 more participants than in 2022. The growth in the class size was due to the complete rebound from disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic; and the Beaufort Promise program, which offers free tuition and fees to qualifying students. The Beaufort Promise program went into effect for the Fall 2021 semester, so the Class of 2023 saw the first graduates to take advantage of the opportunity.
BCCC welcomed Frankie Waters, chairman of Beaufort County Board of Commissioners, as its commencement speaker. Waters has served on the board of commissioners for nine years, with five of those years in leadership. He is a native of Beaufort County, having grown up on a farm near Pinetown. Waters earned a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics from North Carolina State University. He worked for over 30 years as a banker including as vice president and agribusiness banker at Wells Fargo and vice president at Columbia Bank for Cooperatives. Since 2000, Waters has served as the president and owner of the Waters Group, Ltd., a company that provides business solutions to lenders, farmers, and agribusiness firms.
He has also served in other leadership positions, including president of TriCounty Telecom, now RiverStreet Networks; president of the TriCounty Foundation; president of the Pungo Ruritan Club; president of the Pinetown Ruritan Club, and board chairman of the former Beaufort County Hospital.
Waters shared how Beaufort County was searching for ways to keep its population vibrant, and this led to conversations with BCCC president Dr. Dave Loope about continuing the Beaufort Promise, which was initially scheduled to end this month. The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners agreed to fund the program for qualifying Beaufort County citizens for the next three years. The BCCC Foundation through private funding will cover other qualifying students within its four-county service area, including residents of Hyde, Tyrrell, and Washington Counties, and all other qualifying residents of Beaufort County. The board saw this as an investment in the future of the workforce and vitality of Beaufort County.
Waters encouraged the graduates to look for jobs locally, listing off opportunities with different agencies and industries. He also talked about not only the employment options, but also recreation opportunities and civic and religious organizations they could get involved with that offer a balanced quality of life.
Because of the Beaufort Promise program, BCCC was able to rebound from enrollment losses quickly, and enrollment now stands above pre-COVID levels. The 2022-2023 academic year was the first full year without disruptions due to quarantines.
These graduates are leaving the college with many honors in hand. They have earned certificates and degrees in programs such as associate degree nursing, criminal justice technology, cosmetology, emergency medical science, medical laboratory technology, mechanical engineering technology, and degrees such as Associate in Arts or Associate in Science geared toward transferring into a bachelor degree program at a university.
Among the graduates were 90 honor students with gold tassels who earned a GPA of at least 3.5 or higher, representing 27 percent of the graduates. Thirty-four, or ten percent of the entire class, graduated Summa Cum Laude, having earned a 4.0, including Jasmine Lee Allen, Madison Grace Allen, Madison Kay Bass, Olivia Claire Briley, Karina Faye Caliz, Jasmine Nicole Cherry, Thomas Howard Clay Jr., Delta Dawn Cole, Raelynn Olivia Cox, Ellis Caden Cullipher, Naomi Ruth Davis, Sierra Ann Durand, Connor Wade Edwards, Lesily Dawn Edwards, Madalyn Lucille Gibbs, Maggie Rae Glass, Adam Christopher Harp, J’miaya Sabrina Hemby, Valon Akeem Hemby, John Norman Hinchey, Amanda Dawn Hurdle, Mackenzie Paige Jeter, David Clayton Linton Jr., Whitney Hollowell Meads, Katherine Emily Pollock, Caroline Elizabeth Pomeroy, Terence Alexis Roberson, Michelle Merry Rocha-Padilla, Desttiny Salazar, Jesus Yair Munoz Segovia, Shelbi Taylor White, Ashley Morgan Williford, Kelly Nicole Williford, and Ethan Joshua Yoder.
Dr. Lisa Hill, vice president of academic affairs, announced the Faculty Member of the Year, Tom Grubb, art professor, and the Staff Member of the Year, Romance Slade, maintenance mechanic. Dr. LaTonya Nixon, vice president of student services announced the Dallas Herring Achievement nominee, Macy Riffle, the Academic Achievement Award recipient, Hunter Ledford, and the Robert W. Scott Leadership Award nominee, Jaques Williams.