Almost 1,000 students participated in the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Commencement Ceremony on Thursday, May 10, at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum. A total of 3,448 degrees were conferred to 2,224 students this academic year, and nearly 800 students received Honors distinction.
This is the first time that graduates of the Collegiate Academy participated in the college’s commencement. Thirteen students graduated as part of the Collegiate Academy inaugural class.
All of the Collegiate Academy graduates participated in the ceremony, which occurred two weeks before their high school graduation. Kristiana Payton of Gulfport said attending the Academy has been a great experience for her. “I am excited to graduate, and I’m looking forward to going into college in the fall as a junior with my associate degree already behind me! I’m so thankful for my parents, Gulfport High School and, of course, MGCCC for providing me with this great opportunity.”
Payton, a political science major, plans to attend law school and become a criminal defense attorney. On top of her school activities, which include competing on the track and cross country team in high school and serving on the college’s Campus Activities Board, she has also interned for a law firm in Biloxi.
On the other end of the spectrum, Barbara Smith, 81, was one of the graduates participating in the ceremony this year. Smith was cheered on by her family members, some of whom traveled from Utah and South Carolina to show support for her. “I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished, and I can tell you that I never thought I would get here,” she said. “I just took a few classes at a time, and before I knew it, I was done and ready to graduate. This is really a big deal.”
Smith said she plans to continue with her education but doesn’t plan to narrow herself down to just one major yet. “I enjoy a lot of different kind of things, and I just want to explore my options and learn new things.”
An interesting trend at this year’s ceremony was family members graduating together. Dawn and Robert Cripps are mother and son. Dawn, who lives in D’Iberville, took her courses at the Jackson County Campus, while Robert completed his degree at the Perkinston Campus. “Graduating from college was something my former boss/mentor, who drove here from New Orleans tonight to see me graduate, always encouraged me to do,” Dawn said. “I am thrilled that I get to share this experience with my son and my family and that my mentor will see me accomplishing this goal.”
In conjunction with graduation each year, MGCCC also holds the Health Sciences Division Pinning Ceremony. The event, which took place earlier in the day at the Coliseum, recognizes graduates from the Associate Degree Nursing, Emergency Medical Science/EMT, Health Care Assistant, Health Information Technology, Medical Assisting Technology, Medical Laboratory Technology, Practical Nursing, Radiologic Technology and Surgical Technology programs. More than 125 graduates took part in the ceremony.
Samuel Aido, who is originally from Nigeria and a current resident of Baton Rouge, made the two-and-a-half-hour drive from his home to the college each week for two years as part of the hybrid Associate Degree Nursing program, which allows students to do a portion of the program online. “This is a very exciting day for me, my wife and our children,” he said. “I look forward to going to work and being able to provide well for my family.”