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RCCC graduates nearly 1,000

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By Rebecca Rider

rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

CONCORD — The message to Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s class of 2016 was one of perseverance. Nearly 500 students and between 4,500 and 5,000 family members gathered Friday afternoon at the Cabarrus Arena and Events Center to celebrate the school’s 52nd graduating class.

Backstage, students laughed and joked while waiting to file into their seats for the ceremony. Brightly decorated caps declared student names, passions or fields of study.

“We did it, dangit!” student Christie Koval said.

For many students, Friday was the end of a long, hard road and the beginning of a bright future.

Roa Saleh, the class speaker, inspired her fellow graduates with her own story of perseverance, dedication and passion for education. Saleh was born in Chicago, but traveled around the world because of her father’s job. When she eventually moved back to the U.S., there was a language barrier. She said there was an “immense frustration and sadness” that came with trying to overcome a language barrier and gain an education.

“I have learned that education does not come easily, and it requires hard work and patience,” she said.

Saleh inspired fellow graduates with her story, and said her time at RCCC has helped mold her into the person she given her the confidence to “fulfill her aspirations and dreams.” Her involvement with the Student Government Association and Phi Theta Kappa pushed her to challenge herself and grow.

She encouraged her fellow students to push forward, and to never stop growing and learning.

“From nursing to GED students, I have seen you, studying late in the evenings in the library or have heard your amazing stories. Each one of you are unique. But today, the strength of education unites us all together,” she said.

The college conferred 997 degrees to the class of 2016, and 110 diplomas to graduates of the high school equivalency program. College President Dr. Carol Spalding said she was “thrilled” for the graduates.

“Education is the best investment anyone can make,” she said during opening remarks.

Special speakers were Steve Morris, chair of the Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners and Greg Edds, chair of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.

Morris congratulated graduates on their persistence and determination, and encouraged them not to lose those qualities as they entered the work field.

“You already have what it takes to be successful,” he said. “Look around you. Appreciate your fellow graduates, many who have taken many years to complete their degree.”

Edds encouraged students to keep their integrity. He cited historical figures famed for their character, such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and encouraged graduates to do the same.

“Determine to be a positive example to those around you,” he said. “Be a bright light in a dark world. Be an encouragement to those who are struggle and a help to those in need. And know that while today you may leave this place with the skills that will provide you with a lifetime of self-sufficiency and opportunity, my prayer is that . . . will come to understand that your character, your personal integrity and a good name are the only things worth leaving to those you love.”

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.

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