CCC&TI's 2022 graduating class included 491 first generation graduates

CCC&TI's 2022 graduating class included 491 first generation graduates

After a two-year hiatus from hosting its traditional graduation ceremony, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute returned to the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center in Lenoir Saturday to celebrate more than 1,000 graduates from its Caldwell Campus and Watauga Campus during two ceremonies, including 461 first-generation college graduates. 

CCC&TI Board of Trustees members Joel Carroll and Ann Smith opened the ceremonies by welcoming special guests, congratulating the graduates and listing highlights from the last year.

The Class of 2022, the welcome noted, included:

  • 1,016 total graduates, including 461 first-generation college graduates

  • Graduates ranging in age from 15 to 65, with the average age being 25 
  • 14 Dream Scholars 
  • 24 student athletes
  • 24 TRIO/Student Support Services graduates

Smith also presented this year’s Trustees’ Student Award of Merit to Melody Reeves. The award is selected based on faculty nominations for outstanding academic achievement, extracurricular activities and community service. Reeves graduated Saturday with an Associate in Applied Science in Medical Office Administration.

The commencement speaker, Lenoir native and CCC&TI graduate Emily Thomas, shared her story of being on the same stage 16 years earlier and the challenges she faced to get there. She acknowledged the CCC&TI instructors, some of whom were sitting in the audience, who helped keep her on track when she had thoughts of quitting school.

“This institution changes lives. I know, because it changed mine,” Thomas said. 

Thomas earned her Associate in Arts at CCC&TI and went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Communication at Appalachian State and a Master of Arts in Communication studies at UNC-Charlotte. She is a policy analyst for EducationNC and also teaches Communication courses at CCC&TI.

In her closing remarks, she encouraged everyone in the audience to consider furthering their education and to not let fear hold them back.

“The great thing about the North Carolina Community College System is that it was designed for students to enter college regardless of their educational background,” Thomas said. “The colleges meet people where they are and provide them with an education that will transform their lives and the lives of their family. Just as today’s graduates have been transformed.” 

In his charge to graduates, CCC&TI President Dr. Mark Poarch thanked the college’s faculty and staff for their hard work and congratulated the Class of 2022 on a job well done. Poarch also spoke about returning to a formal graduation after two years of outdoor, on-campus ceremonies due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It feels so good to be here in this place in person for the first time in three years,” Poarch said. “You are here and on this stage in spite of a global pandemic. … That truly is a remarkable accomplishment.” 

Poarch challenged the graduates to take the lessons learned the last two years and forge ahead into whatever comes next.

“Students, if you can persevere through a pandemic and perform at this high level, you can succeed in whatever lies ahead,” he said. “As you move on, go with confidence and let this situation and your success set the stage for life’s next step. 

As you leave this place, go with the same sense of fearlessness, inspiration and boldness that got you through the pandemic and to this graduation stage.” 

Story submitted by Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute

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