Nash Community College celebrated the accomplishment of 105 High School Equivalency graduates at a commencement ceremony held Thursday, May 10, 2018 in Brown Auditorium.
Quoting Ecclesiastes 9:11, student speaker Rakenza Whitaker encouraged fellow graduates saying, “The race is not given to the swift nor the strong, but the one who endureth till the end.”
Whitaker, 47, owns a disc jockey company and mentors youth interested in becoming a DJ. He lives in Whitakers with his wife and two children.
“I dropped out in my junior year of high school. I really can’t explain why. I was young and not thinking about my future,” he said.
Whitaker was employed at Safelite for 22 years until the plant closed in 2016. “Enrolling in college after all these years was hard,” he said. “I had been out of school for so long, and I wasn’t sure of myself.”
He thanked the faculty, his classmates and his family for not allowing him to give up.
Upon completion of the High School Equivalency credential, he enrolled in NCC’s Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) program, and graduated in April.
“I’ve been out of the workforce for over a year, so my next step is to go back to work. But I’m not done. This experience has taught me there is more to my future, and I plan to return to school, get an HVAC degree and open my second business,” Whitaker said.
“I stand here today to encourage each of you to keep moving forward. This is just the beginning,” Whitaker said.
NCC Director of Student Wellness and Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences, Marbeth Holmes, delivered the keynote address.
“I am here with you tonight because I once was where you are. For me, earning my High School Equivalency proved to be a stepping stone for a non-traditional journey that has led to a deeper understanding: the value of love and of education. I hope the same will be true for you,” Holmes said.
After sharing her own personal experience facing adversity with an attitude of persistence, Marbeth Holmes congratulated and encouraged the graduates. “Whatever your path, whatever you experienced that steered you from society’s traditional pathway, honor the journey. Celebrate it. You are the exception. Be exceptional,” Holmes remarked.
Each graduate received a blue pocket stone with “Love” engraved on it to remind them of the value of love and education as many have turned life’s challenges into stepping stones towards a brighter future.
“What to others may seem like a small accomplishment is a transformative stepping stone that will make all your future successes possible. Tonight you are a graduate,” she exclaimed.
An award-winning and experienced professional, Holmes earned an Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Arts from Louisburg College and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Meredith College. She graduated with a Master of Arts from Abilene Christian University and Master of Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Holmes is a National Certified Trauma Clinician, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist.