WHEELING – The assembled graduating class of West Virginia Northern Community College was asked to spread the word about community college options to their friends, peers and successors as they lined up to receive their diplomas.
Sarah Armstrong Tucker, the commencement speaker for the graduating class of 2022, serves as the Chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and of the Community and Technical College System. She is the first person to hold both positions simultaneously.
Tucker asked the gathered 266 students how many of them were the first in their families to graduate – dozens stood. She told those who were taking their first steps toward their career goals had led them to WVNCC, when many students she encounters don’t consider community college as an option.
“Just a couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure to meet with a group of local middle school students – really motivated and engaged youths who were interested in interning with businesses in the area,” Tucker said. “I talked with them about their hopes and dreams, and do you know what none of them mentioned? That they have a community college right here where they can get their start. ”
Tucker said that while the community college experience has changed and grown, now offering more variety in curriculums, more scheduling options, and better prospects, the student count isn’t growing to match. She tasked the assembled graduates with leading others down the same path they had taken.
photo by: Alan Olson
“Some of our programs are only half-full, because too many West Virginians don’t know about them,” she said. “They don’t know about our community colleges, the flexibility, the student support services, or how affordable community college education is, and frankly, that’s where we really need you.
“Be our ambassadors for the promise of community college education in West Virginia,” she continued. “Whether you’re the first or just the latest in your family to go to college, talk to everyone about your experiences here at Northern. Talk to your children, your neighbors, and your neighbors’ children. Talk with your friends who think college is out of reach. ”
The ceremony also called attention to the youngest graduate, 18-year-old Olivia Broan, a senior at Valley High School who received her associate’s degree in criminal justice, and their oldest, 63-year-old Louis Hans, who received his associate’s degree in accounting and business administration.