YARMOUTH, N.S. – They’ve been supported throughout their studies, and as they crossed the stage to collect their certificates and diplomas at this year’s NSCC Burridge convocation ceremony you could still feel and witness the support these students – now graduates – are receiving from the college, the faculty, their families and the community.
Many students crossing the stage exchanged hugs with faculty members – this after NSCC president Don Bureaux had taken the time to congratulate and share words and thoughts with each graduate as they came across the stage.
“It’s a very special time of the year for us where we get to recognize the success of our students,” he said in an interview prior to the June 5 ceremony at the Mariners Centre in Yarmouth. “It’s a very humbling experience because we get invited into people’s lives for a couple of years and be part of their learning journey. Through those couple of years the bond that is created between the student and the faculty and staff is simply amazing.”
Close to 250 students graduated during the ceremony – one of 21 ceremonies across the province that will see, in total, around 4,500 students graduate. Bureaux said NSCC has worked hard to address post-secondary needs of Nova Scotians, especially given that not everyone wants to go the university route. The college wants NSCC to be seen as an equally viable option, and it is, he said. And the college’s reputation continues to grow with each passing year.
“We’ve worked hard over the years to make sure that every Nova Scotia has an opportunity to pursue post-secondary education and we recognize that people learn differently and they want to pursue different careers,” he said. “So if a person wants to pursue a career where the college education makes sense, I think we’ve come to a place where we’re respected, recognized and are a relevant post-secondary institution.”
In saying this, NSCC has also partnered with universities in some of its programs where students can complete two years at NSCC and receive their diploma, then continue their studies for another two years at university to secure a degree.
The make-up of any graduating class at NSCC is unique. There are students who recently graduated from high school. There are others who have been removed from the education system for some time who have returned to the classroom. Some are looking for career changes. All are looking for career opportunities. Some are struggling with jobs as they attend school. Some are balancing school and families.
Mary Thompson, principal of NSCC Burridge, says graduation is a special time in the lives of so many.
“For me this is such an emotional day because you see students who come in at the beginning of the year and some are really nervous, some haven't maybe had a lot of experience in school, and at the end of this they just shine,” she said. “And what for me is most special is that not only are they confident but they want to come back and they want to be part of the community. It's just so heartwarming.”
Thompson said NSCC continues to work hard to create partnerships with the community and to be a place people turn to for more than just an education.
“We are now opening what is called a sandbox, which is an innovation space and it will be at the Digby site, Yarmouth site and Shelburne site courtesy of Université Sainte-Anne. It will be yet another way the community can take part and develop business ideas. Not only our students and staff but our community as well,” she said. “You can’t be in the community and not take an active part and that's what we want to do.”
During the convocation ceremonies an NSCC tradition is to have faculty members and staff present the certificates and diplomas to their own loved ones when a family member is graduating. Thompson was among those who had the pleasure of doing this as she presented the diploma to her daughter Carrie Thompson who graduated with honours from the Mental Health Recovery and Promotion Program.
In addition to other faculty and staff members who also joined in this tradition with their own children or in-laws – including Tania Boudreau who made two presentations as she had two sons graduating, Keegan O'Connell and Connor O'Connell – another sense of family was evident as several graduates crossed the stage holding their small children.
Yarmouth MLA Zach Churchill, the province's education minister, touched on the community and family support and said it doesn't end when the students cross the stage.
"I know that the success we're celebrating today is just the beginning for each and every one of you because you're all capable of achieving all that you want from a career prespective and a personal perspective," he said. "It's not going to be easy but just remember, when you're dealing with tough times, or feel alone, remember this day, look around you, and realize that every single person in this room is behind you."
It was mentioned during the ceremony to those graduating that “yesterday they were students, today they are graduates and tomorrow they will be NSCC alumni.”
The class valedictorian, Keegan O’Connell of Yarmouth, who graduated from the Business Administration-Accounting program was already all three. He returned to NSCC after graduating from the welding program. And his studies aren’t over. He plans to use NSCC's articulation agreement to further his education at university, attain a degree and, one day, earn a chartered professional accountant or chartered financial analyst designation.
In his valedictorian biography it was stated that as a person with severe hearing loss, O’Connell has had to persevere to overcome a variety of challenges in his life. In his remarks to his fellow graduates, he said they’ve likely had to do the same.
“I’m sure you can all remember a moment during your time at NSCC when it felt like you were on the brink of failure. Maybe you contemplated giving up, whether it was a test, an assignment, a deadline or life’s circumstances,” he said, but with the support of family, friends, faculty or classmates they all found a way to push through, he said, and reach graduation.
“We have learned to work hard, gained employable skills, learned how to overcome obstacles. We’ve shouldered responsibility, gained independence, we’ve learned to cope with stress, learned from our mistakes,” he said, adding that often the greatest lessons in life can come from the most challenging of experiences.
There were also major awards presented during the ceremony. The recipients were as follows:
• Governor General’s Academic Medal, awarded to a student of a college diploma program who has achieved the highest academic standing: Kaitlynn Williamson, Sable River (Esthetics and Spa Therapies)
• Nova Scotia Community College Gold Medal, awarded to the graduating student of a college certificate program who has achieved the highest academic standing: Hailey Stuart, Clare (Office Administration)
• Board of Governors’ Award, awarded to a diploma program graduate for outstanding academic achievement and contribution to campus and/or community activities: Mallory Francis, Digby (Practical Nursing)
• President’s Award, awarded to a certificate program graduate for outstanding academic achievement and contribution to campus and/or community activities: Jenny Goreham, Woods Harbour (Office Administration)
• NSCC Alumni Rising Star Award, awarded to a graduate of any college program who embodies the NSCC alumni tradition of excellence and ambassadorship and who extraordinary contributions have inspired a sense of community and pride on campus: Kendall Treese, Yarmouth (welding)
THE CLASS OF 2018
The following is a list of programs students graduated from on June 5:
Automotive Service and Repair
Early Childhood Education
Esthetics and Spa Therapies
Mental Health Recovery and Promotion
Information Techonology-Systems Management/Networking
Accomplishment in Achieve
High School Graduation Diploma for Adults