PRESTONSBURG – A record number of students were awarded credentials during Big Sandy Community and Technical College’s spring commencement ceremonies held on May 9-10 at the Mountain Arts Center.
This year, 386 students graduated, earning more than 1,000 credentials. Since 2000, BSCTC has awarded more than 14,000 credentials.
“You will witness several things that exemplify what American community and technical colleges are all about,” Dr. George D. Edwards, president and CEO of BSCTC, told the crowd during the nursing and dental hygiene pinning and commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 10. An overflow crowd watched the commencement ceremony on Friday, May 9. “You will see graduates who intend to immediately enter the world of work; you will see graduates who intend to transfer to a four-year university. You will see graduates who have struggled to reach this point, although they have faced obstacles.”
Graduates ranged from 17 years old to 71 years old. The class featured eight seniors from the inaugural class of the Floyd County Early College Academy, who earned associate degrees weeks before participating in their respective high school graduations. John Tibbs, 71, of Pikeville, who retired from BellSouth two years ago after 40 years of service, returned to school to serve as a role model for his 10 grandchildren.
Six of Tibbs’ grandchildren and a host of family members watched him walk across the stage on May 9 as he was awarded an Associate of Applied Science degree in General Occupation Technical Studies.
“It feels great,” said Tibbs. “I’m very glad I did this.”
Dr. Doug Herman, professor of History, and Dr. Deborah Jacobs, professor of English, were recognized with honorary Distinguished Alumni awards. Dr. Herman and Dr. Jacobs are retiring in the coming months.
The college also recognized four individuals with its Outstanding Alumni award. Gary Dean Hall and Rebeckah Curry Hall were honored on May 9.
Gary returned to college after being laid off as an underground coal miner. After attending BSCTC in 2010-11, he transferred to Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, where he earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Radiology in 2013. He currently works as a radiologic technician at Pikeville Medical Center.
Rebeckah is the Chief Financial Officer at Mountain Comprehensive Care Center. She earned her Associate of Applied Science degree in 2004 and continued her education at Morehead State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and accounting.
After starting her career as a receptionist at Mountain Comprehensive Care Center, Rebeckah took night and internet courses to finish her degree. She was unable to attend the commencement on May 9 as she gave birth to her first child days prior to the ceremony.
On Saturday, Michelle Blair Rainey and Brittany Pennington were recognized with the Outstanding Alumni award.
Rainey is assistant vice president of nursing and assistant chief nursing officer at Pikeville Medical Center. She earned her nursing degree from BSCTC in 1995. Pennington is a dental hygienist at Martin Dentistry and a 2003 graduate of BSCTC.
Sister Judy Yunker, a Benedictine Nun-Sister, Episcopal Priest-Mother and member of the Ecumenical Benedictine Monastery in Martin, was recognized with the Faculty Service Award.
Rheagan Wills, president of the Student Government Association at BSCTC, encouraged her fellow graduates to “take the chance and not regret it.”
“No one can take your degree away from you,” she said.
Toufic Saad, who has won the Great Teacher Award as voted on by the student body for two consecutive years, encouraged students to be proud of their heritage, but also live up to it.
“For many, the journey was tough,” Saad told students. “At the end of the day, it was your hard work, perseverance, tenacity and determination that got you here.”
On Saturday, Clara Garrett, coordinator of BSCTC’s nursing program, handed out Outstanding Academic Achievement and Nightingale Award for Clinical Excellence recognitions to the top two students in the Associate Degree Nursing and Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) programs. Lasha Marsillett (Associate Degree Nursing) and Brittany Halbert (LPN) were the Outstanding Academic Achievement recipients, while Traci McCown (Associate Degree Nursing) and Tena Blanton (LPN) were the Nightingale winners.
Each student received a scholarship from the Drs. Gopal and Mina Majmundar Scholarship Fund.
Jennifer Miles, a member of BSCTC’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter and treasure of the Kentucky Association of Nursing chapter, shared her story of returning to nursing school after a layoff. She earned an associate degrees in mechanical drafting and architectural drafting when she lost her job in 2010.
“All our instructors said it wouldn’t be easy, but it would be worth it,” she said.
Miles, who earned her Associate of Applied Science degree in Nursing, is excited about what the future holds.
“Our patents may never remember our name, but they’ll remember how we made them feel,” she told her fellow graduates.