LCCC President Dr. Marcia Ballinger awards a diploma to a graduate at the 2019 Commencement on May 18.

Oscar Rosado

“It’s been a long journey, four years in the making,” Lorain resident Omar Vargas said after receiving his Associate of Arts degree through Lorain County Community College’s College Credit Plus (CCP) program at LCCC’s 55th Commencement ceremony on May 18.

Like Vargas, the 2019 graduating class of 1,641 earned 2,083 two-year degrees and certificates, and an additional 353 students earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees through the University Partnership.

“With a grand total of 2,436 degrees and credentials being earned, it was the most degrees awarded,” LCCC President Marcia Ballinger, Ph.D., said at the Commencement ceremony held at LCCC’s Ewing Center.

This graduation class marks the first to count toward the college’s new strategic plan called 10,000 Degrees of Impact, which includes the promise of 10,000 individuals earning a degree or certificate by 2025.

Graduates celebrating after the ceremony.

The Lorain County Early College High School graduated its 11thclass with 78 first-generation students primarily from Lorain and Elyria, and all earned an associate degree and their high school diploma at the same time. Meanwhile, 58 high school students graduated with their associate degrees through the College Credit Plus program.

Allan Golston, president of the United States Program for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as the keynote speaker of the commencement, recalled a quote Dr. Ballinger had said earlier, “I want to say that again because it bears repeating: Every. Student’s. Dream. Matters.” Golston later said, “That’s what the power of education can do – it can create opportunity, generation after generation – it can make a student’s dream matter.”

Student Senate President Jude Jeon had shared a message, “Success is like a present on Christmas day. Right now the gift wrap represents your obstacles. The paper may be made up of hard times. There may be hardship and suffering, there may be personal and family issues. Any of which could be things that make you not want to unwrap the gift. But please. Unwrap the gift. Push through the hard times. Tear off the wrapping paper and find your goals inside. The bigger your goals are; the more paper you may have to get through. But, please, don’t give up. You can break through the negatives and turn them into positives. And that’s how we can all have a positive impact on our world.”

Vice President for Strategic and Institutional Development Tracy Green, had a few words to say: “What a day, so proud of our graduates. Today was our 55th commencement. There were some special stories and great energy as you see graduates celebrate with family and friends.”

Gissele Lugo, of Lorain, graduated with an Associate of Arts and Spanish. She described her experiences at LCCC to be “long and challenging.” Lugo plans to transfer to Cleveland State University for her Bachelor’s for Spanish as well as a teacher licenser.

Kenny Santiago Marrero, also of Lorain, graduated with an Associate of Arts. He commented, “This is only the beginning of the journey as I’m motivated to go after my bachelor’s.”

Marrero said his experiences here on campus was magical, adding, “Having that relationship with advisers and counselors was truly an incredible feeling. It was like having a family supporting me here at LCCC.”