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RCCC graduates cross finish line during commencement at Charlotte Motor Speedway

CONCORD — In true North Carolina and NASCAR fashion, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College graduates crossed the finish line Friday during a commencement ceremony held at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Of the more than 730 graduates who received associate degrees, diplomas and certificates earned during the spring 2021 and summer 2021 academic terms, about 350 participated in the drive-thru ceremony. Students were honored for completing one of the college’s transfer degree programs — Associate in Arts, Associate in Fine Arts in Visual Arts, Associate in Engineering or Associate in Science — and the Associate in General Education, as well as those eligible for specific program diplomas and certificates. Others included those who have completed high school equivalency or adult high school requirements.

Friday’s commencement followed the lead of the drive-thru ceremony held on the track for December graduates.

“We continue to make it our priority to keep our students, faculty and staff as safe as possible while celebrating the remarkable achievements of our graduates under the challenging conditions presented by COVID-19,” said Dr. Carol S. Spalding, president of RCCC. “Our December graduation on the track was an experience to remember, and we know that this ceremony also will create memories for a lifetime.”

Students wore their caps, gowns and honorary regalia, and were accompanied by family and friends in their cars as they drove around to receive their diplomas. Each graduate was limited to one car

The ceremony was projected on the Speedway’s Jumbotron video screen, which measures 200 feet wide and 80 feet tall. It was also streamed live at www.rccc.edu/grad2021.

Dr. Dari Caldwell, former president of Novant Health Rowan Regional Medical Center and a member of the Rowan-Cabarrus Board of Trustees, delivered the keynote commencement address. Caldwell received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her master’s in nursing from Duke University. She received her doctorate in health care administration from Columbia Pacific University. She has spent more than 35 years in hospital administration.

Her career also includes the receiving of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award in 2016, which is one of the highest awards that the governor can present.

Graduating RCCC nursing student Damola Ogunyomi also addressed the Class of 2021. Ogunyomi began at Rowan-Cabarrus as an Early College student and continued on to complete the Associate Degree in Nursing program.

While at Rowan-Cabarrus, Ogunyomi kept an active presence on campus, serving in many leadership roles, including Student Ambassador, Vice President of the Student Government Association and President of the College’s Student Nurses Association. She was selected as a Student Excellence Award finalist both years at Rowan-Cabarrus, and was named this year as the College’s nominee for the statewide Governor Robert W. Scott Student Leadership Award.

“It’s an exciting day as we celebrate the accomplishments of these resilient graduates, who pressed on in the face of unprecedented adversity,” Spalding said during the ceremony. “I admire their dedication to completing this educational milestone despite difficult circumstances, and I hope this unique drive-through ceremony at Charlotte Motor Speedway will create memories that will last a lifetime. I wish every member of the Class of 2021 the best for a bright and fulfilling future. These students are an inspiration to us and should be to others. 2021 is the perfect time to go college as there is adequate federal funding.”

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