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More than 1,400 receive degrees from Rowan-Cabarrus Community College

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CONCORD — A downpour of rain wouldn’t be enough to keep celebrating students, friends and families from filling the Cabarrus Arena and Events Center on Friday.

The masses gathered to celebrate Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s 54th graduation, during which some 1,445 students received degrees, diplomas and certificates.

Graduates ranged in age from 16 to 73, with an average age of 28.

“The college is proud to help our students ‘navigate forward’ and serve as a resource that empowers students to find their way to their future,” said college President Carol Spalding. “Education is the best investment anyone can make.”

Liana Walker, a graduating senior and president of the Student Government Association, said for her, the path had some twists and turns. She entered Rowan-Cabarrus right out of high school, at first intending to major in radiography.

“Then I got involved and I was like, ‘Radiography is not my passion anymore. That’s not what I want to do,'” she said.

So she next explored speech disorders and sciences, which led to her passion: communication.

She’ll continue to pursue that passion in the fall as she transfers to Appalachian State University to earn her bachelor’s degree.

“Not everybody knows exactly what they want to do when they’re 18 and they’ve just graduated high school,” said Paula Dibley, communications director with the college. “Liana has not lost any time even though she’s changed her mind a couple times. She’s now moving into her four-year university tract exactly where she ought to be.”

As president of the Student Government Association, Walker gave this year’s student address to the 2018 graduating class. She used the time to pass along lessons learned from her own winding path.

“Sometimes stepping out into the unknown can change your perspective and your path to success,” she said.

Walker encouraged her peers be proud of themselves wherever they are along this path “because you are the image of someone else’s goal,” she said.

Former Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz, who gave the commencement address, said the students have much to look forward to yet.

“Your graduation is not the end of your education, even if this is the last time you attend school,” Kluttz said. “It’s the beginning. Life itself is education.”

Kluttz spoke of three experiences during her time as mayor. She said each taught her a valuable life lesson.

First, she spoke of a time when the City Council implemented diversity training for staff members.

During the training, she said, she voiced a desire to end all racism in the city, only to be told that her dream wasn’t realistic.

“Some people say you shouldn’t set goals that you never will achieve because it may frustrate you, but I believe you should set goals the very highest you can,” said Kluttz. “Then you work as hard as can to achieve them, and you celebrate each achievement you make no matter how small.”

She next spoke of a time she learned the value of integrity after a trusted resource confessed to a lie during a public hearing.

“Your character and integrity are your most precious gifts,” she said. “Sometimes a little lie may seem OK, but I can assure you once you get found out you will lose your integrity, and it’s very difficult to get it back, if you ever do.”

Finally, Kluttz said, she let her hope in the world falter after the loss of her parents.

“Never give up hope no matter what obstacles you may face,” she said. “Hope is important to your future for several reasons.”

Hope is positive, she said, and a positive attitude leads to success. And hope helps with focus and motivation, she said.

“I have great hope for all of you,” she told the graduates. “I wish you the very best in the next chapter of your life.”

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