“Today is the day that your hard work pays off and is the day we celebrate you.” Lorain County Community College President Marcia Ballinger, Ph.D., said as she welcomed graduates to the 58th commencement ceremony Saturday morning in the Ewing field house on campus.
The ceremony, the 11th in the field house, welcomed family, friends, and supporters to celebrate the 1,773 graduates as they earned a combined 2,193 Associate Degrees or Certificates. In addition to that, 351 graduates earned bachelor’s or master’s degrees from the college’s University Partnership program.
The program recently celebrated its 25th year since its opening in 1997 and now plays host to an impressive partnership with 14 universities in the region. In honor of the program and graduates, this year’s commencement ceremony sported the theme “Soaring to New Heights” in which SOAR stands for Success and Opportunity Advancing the Region.
“In this community, we are rooting for you, and you are never alone,” Ballinger said. “Because as you rise up, you elevate those around you. When you fly high, we all soar.”
And the UP program is no longer comprised of just other colleges. In 2018, LCCC launched its own applied bachelor’s program in Microelectronic Manufacturing or MEMS, the first community college to do so. LCCC soon plans to add a second applied bachelor’s this time in SMART.
During the ceremony, Ballinger enlightened attendees that among today’s graduates, over 40% were the first in their families to earn a college degree. One first-generation student, Zuleika E. Torres, shared her excitement.
“I’m a first-generation college student, so I am proud. My dad didn’t even get to finish 8th grade when he was in school, so I know they are proud of me. But more importantly, I am also just so glad that it’s done. I am ready to continue on in life.”
Many of the first-generation students are a part of LCCC’s Early College High School (ECHS) program, which offers students a chance to earn a high school diploma and an Associate Degree at the same time. During this year, 127 students were among those graduating, with most coming from the partnerships in both Elyria and Lorain high schools.
“These dual enrollment programs are delivered at no cost-saving families of these 127 graduates more than $1.3 million in tuition,” said Ballinger.
The new graduates contributed to LCCC’s 10,000 degrees of Impact program starting in 2019 in which the college plans to have offered 10,00 degrees to 10,000 students by 2025. They are now 72% towards reaching that goal.
After the last graduate crossed the stage, Ballinger again took the podium to congratulate them one more time. “Now that you have earned your degrees, you are ready to soar. Like Birds that prepare to take flight, trust yourselves. You have built your foundation and now you are to soar. As you do, I hope you feel like you are on top of the world!”
The graduates were showered in confetti as a final surprise, concluding their commencement and giving them a chance to relish in their accomplishments.
Graduate Emese Toth, the recipient of the Coca-Cola scholarship, said, “I guess I feel a bit overwhelmed by it all. It is a great honor to have the scholarship and I have a sense of pride because of the recognition for myself and for the campus. Overall I am proud to be an LCCC graduate.”