a person at a podium in a graduation outfit.
Sen. Erica Smith delivered the commencement address in a live broadcast as part of a two-part ceremony.

Class of 2020 graduates celebrate with unique ceremony

Beaufort County Community College held its 53rd Commencement Ceremony on June 6. The college live-streamed the ceremony on its website, www.beaufortccc.edu, and the video can be viewed directly here. The two-part ceremony featured North Carolina Senator Erica Smith as keynote speaker, and graduates participated in a "parade of graduates" in the afternoon. The college celebrated its first graduating class from Washington County Early College High School.

Since the college could not accommodate any students, faculty, or staff at the ceremony due to the COVID-19 restrictions, commencement speaker Sen. Erica Smith, as well as Rev. Dr. Robert Cayton, Chair of the BCCC Board of Trustees, and Dr. David Loope, BCCC President, participated in a broadcast ceremony. Additionally, the academic deans read the names of the 270 graduates from the summer 2019, fall 2019 and spring 2019 semesters. These graduates come from BCCC's service area that includes Beaufort, Hyde, Tyrrell and Washington Counties, but also from surrounding areas such as Martin and Pitt Counties. They attend either on the main campus in Washington, online or through dual-enrollment programs through four early college high schools. Some students even earn degrees or certificates through Career & College Promise while attending their traditional high schools in the region.

This year saw the first graduates from Washington County Early College High School, with Kaylee Christenberry, Angel Santos Juarez and Eileen Walo earning degrees. At Beaufort County Early College High School, Lindsay Swain became the first student to complete the five-year program in only three years. BCECHS also saw Savannah O'Brien earn the prestigious title of Morehead Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At Northside High School, Macy Radcliffe became the first student to earn a Criminal Justice Diploma through BCCC.

In addition, BCCC hosted a special Graduation Celebration Parade on campus. Graduates drove a route across campus to the circle drive at the Elliott Administration Building, where received their diploma jackets from Rev. Dr. Cayton and Dr. Loope. The college's faculty and staff were positioned in tents along the route to cheer students on, wish them luck and bid them farewell. Families decorate vehicles and cheered on their graduates.

This is a dramatic time for students entering the workforce as combinations of COVID-19 restrictions and economic impacts have sent unemployment to record highs, but workers with post-secondary degrees have fared better through the crisis, as many of them have been able to work from home. Those students entering fields such as medical laboratory technology and nursing will find themselves on the frontlines of combatting the continuing pandemic, and students in fields such as information technology will help shift government and business operations smoothly onto online platforms. Historically, one of the best steps that workers can take to shield themselves from recessions and economic upheavals is to get a college degree.

BCCC wishes nothing but success to our students. We know that this is not the finale they expected for their time with the college, but we are proud that they overcame these challenges, and they will forever belong here.