with gallery: WCC commencement ceremony celebrates more than 3,000 graduates
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Washtenaw Community College has enjoyed an increase in enrollment for the last several years, which has translated into graduating classes of more than 3,000 students for the last three years—3,481 in 2010, 3,505 in 2011, and 3,049 students who applied to graduate in 2012, according to Janet Hawkins, associate director of public affairs for WCC.
The 2012 class had its commencement ceremony this morning at Eastern Michigan University's Convocation Center, and it included the first WCC honorary degree, which was awarded to U.S. Rep. John Dingell, for his commitment to the idea of education for all people.
Also new at this year's graduation were the red, white and blue honor cords worn by some of the graduates to designate military veterans. Student speaker Robert Nelson, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Afghanistan, wore the patriotic cords.
"I have a unique perspective to give the graduating class because I went outside the traditional route of going from high school to college," said Nelson, who has been on the dean's high honor roll every semester and helped found the WCC Corps of Student Veterans club. "That meshes well with the diverse population at WCC."
Nelson, who grew up in Georgia, said that he felt he needed to experience life after high school and joined the Marine Corps, which also helped him learn discipline. He spoke to the graduating class about being successful in the global market economy.
Nelson—who earned a liberal arts transfer degree—has been accepted at Harvard, Columbia University, and New York University and plans to study political science and government. His wife, Jenn Smith, also just graduated from WCC and earned an associate's degree in photography.
Diana McKnight-Morton, a trustee who has served on the WCC board for 18 years, was one of the people handing out diplomas this morning. She was particularly proud to hand one of those diplomas to her daughter, 42-year-old Lynoa McKnight.
"It's a total accomplishment for her," said McKnight-Morton. "Lynoa dealt with adversity and still continued on with her schooling. I've been behind her to let her know she could do it."
"I started at WCC in 1989 but soon became overwhelmed and left," said Lynoa McKnight, who gave birth to a son in 1994. "I had a job at a bank for nearly 10 years and was laid off in 2008. After being unemployed for three years, I decided it was time to go back to WCC and now I'm getting a certificate as a medical assistant and in medical billing."
Lynoa McKnight says that it has been a long road to receiving her diploma today.
"My family's encouragement really helped," she said. "I'm doing it for myself, but I'm also doing it for my mom while she's on the board, and for my grandparents who came to see me walk across the stage. Getting my certificate will open more doors for me."