Rowan-Cabarrus Community College awards degrees to 858 students

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 13, 2017

By Rebecca Rider

CONCORD — Graduating college while being a parent, while holding a full-time job, or holding multiple jobs is hard work.

It takes determination and a lot of effort.

For 858 students at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, that commitment was rewarded Friday afternoon.

“Education is the best investment anyone can make,” college President Carol Spalding told the graduates.

The college held its 53rd commencement at 4 p.m. in the Cabarrus Area and Events Center in Concord, conferring degrees, diplomas and certificates on graduates between the ages of 17 and 65.

Members of the Class of 2017 earned more than 1,300 different degrees, diplomas and certificates.

The college also conferred 265 diplomas to graduates of its high school equivalency program. They ranged in age from 16 to 72.

And every degree was earned, said keynote speaker Darrell Hinnant, the mayor of Kannapolis and an adjunct professor at the college.

“You should be proud of your accomplishment,” he told graduates.

Hinnant talked about his life growing up on a tenant tobacco farm in eastern North Carolina and being the first member of his family to go to college. He holds degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University. He served in executive roles for Drew Chemical Corp., Rollins Environmental Services and Radiator Specialty Co.

Hinnant was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine — North Carolina’s highest public service award — and worked with Gov. Jim Martin as executive director of the North Carolina Hazardous Waste Management Commission.

“Education has unlocked many doors for me,” he said. “And education is the key for you…”

Earning a degree was the “first step in a lifelong journey.” Students don’t just learn facts, technical skills or how to succeed in a career at Rowan-Cabarrus, he said. They learn to think critically and be analytica, and that will help them succeed, he said.

Along the way, they have hopefully developed a love of knowledge that will lead them to become lifelong learners, Hinnant said.

“The joy of education is about experiencing a sense of wonder, a sense of awe,” he said.

Hinnant’s sentiments echoed those of the student speaker, Shakia Simpson. A nursing student, mother of four, wife and Army veteran, Simpson knows the meaning of effort. She encouraged her fellow graduates to stop dreaming and start doing.

“The likelihood of accomplishing a dream is about the same as the odds of one of us winning the Powerball jackpot,” she said. “Because dreaming of winning the lottery is based on hopes, wants and wishes — not on work ethic or commitment or sacrifice.”

None of the Class of 2017 made it to graduation by dreaming about it, Simpson said. They made it because they used their dreams to create a tangible, achievable goal, then worked toward it with “laser focus.”

“Whatever future path we choose from this moment on, we move confidently down that path because it was strategically carved out,” she said.

Whether they choose to pursue a career or more education, she encouraged her fellow graduates to not let their pasts hold them back or be an excuse and to keep pushing to achieve their goals.

“Know more, do more, be more,” she told them.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.