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PHCC Class of 2014
Graduates encouraged to be lifelong learners
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Patrick Henry Community College graduate Latisha Dillard holds her daughter, Maliyah Dillard, 4, who wears her mother’s mortar board after Saturday’s commencement program. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
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Sunday, May 18, 2014

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) graduation speaker Dr. Annie P. Wimbish encouraged the Class of 2014 to “embrace your transition” and continue to be lifelong learners.

Wimbish has been a professional educator for more than 30 years and was the first female superintendent of Hattiesburg (Miss.) Public School District. She also has served as an instructor at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and as an online instructor for Grand Canyon University.

“With this milestone that you have just completed, it’s not the end,” Wimbish told the crowd at PHCC Saturday. “It’s the beginning of a brand-new life for many of you.”

Wimbish stressed three points to the graduates. The first, she said, was to embrace the transition out of college and “continue to invest in your own learning, in your own growth and development.”

“It’s just absolutely mandated that you be lifelong learners,” she said. “The world is changing so fast now that the job that you have prepared for today, it may not even exist five years from now. So you have to rethink your learning.”

Her second point, she told the graduates, was to think carefully about the consequences of their decisions, both good and bad.

“Patrick Henry, who this wonderful institution is named after, said, ‘I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death,’” Wimbish said. “As a result of his choice, a nation was formed. Your choices may not form a nation, but they will absolutely, surely, 100 percent shape your future and where you’re going to go. When you’re faced with a tough situation, will you choose to stand for what is right, even if it means you’re an outlier? Or will you choose to go along with the crowd, just because it’s easy?”

Her third point, she said, was to be like Joshua when he led the Israelites into the promised land, and be confident and determined when facing the enemy.

The enemies, she said, are “those people who will say to you, ‘you can’t do that. Who do you think you are? You can’t reach that dream. You’re too tall, you’re too short, you’re not smart enough, you’re not fast enough, you’re from the wrong side of the tracks. You just can’t do it.’ But when they come at you like that, remember to be determined and be confident. Don’t let the world tell you who you are. You have to know who you are. Stand up for what you know and who you want to be,” Wimbish said.

She told the story of a young girl born to sharecroppers in Virginia. The girl’s family, she said, was incredibly poor, living in a shack with no indoor plumbing and only an old potbelly wood stove for heat.

The girl’s father was an alcoholic, Wimbish said, but the mother was a special person who always told the little girl to hold her head high and be proud of herself, because she was just as valuable as anyone else in the world.

That little girl, Wimbish said, “became the first female superintendent of Hattiesburg Public School District and is standing here before you today to say it’s not where you come from; it’s where you’re going.”

PHCC President Dr. Angeline Godwin told the graduating class that the college always will be there to help them.

“Make no mistake, graduates, you are the only reason that the college exists,” she said. “You are why we are here. So our commitment to you is that we’re going to be here. We’re going to be here as your future successes or future challenges surface to honor your accomplishments. ... We’ll always be your college. Once a Patriot, always a Patriot.”

According to PHCC Public Relations and Marketing Manager Kris Landrum, 455 students graduated on Saturday, and of those, 146 crossed the stage to receive their diplomas, along with 10 Old Dominion University distance learning graduates.

Lucas Prillaman, who received his degree in general studies, said that he is looking forward to attending Guilford College in the fall to major in accounting. He intends to become a certified public accountant.

Prillaman is a Patrick Henry Scholar, he said, and received a full scholarship to PHCC. He also served on the President’s Student Leadership Cabinet, which is mentored by Godwin.

“We met in (Godwin’s) office Friday mornings,” Prillaman said, “and had local community leaders come in and show us a little bit about their jobs, their corporations, what they did, how we can improve ourselves as leaders, how we can make ourselves look better, and how we can improve our community and the businesses around us.”

Prillaman said he became close to Godwin and appreciates her accessibility and support to all the students at the college.

“If I could do it again, I wouldn’t change a thing,” Prillaman said. “I just loved my time here.”

Haley McAlexander, who received her associate degree in administration of justice cum laude, said she hopes to become a Henry County Sheriff’s deputy.

McAlexander said that she doesn’t have any family members in law enforcement, but it’s a field she has wanted to enter since she was a little girl.

Her family, she said, has been a bit nervous about her career choice in the past, “but they’re warming up to it now.”

McAlexander herself is not nervous about attending a police academy and applying to the sheriff’s office. “I’m ready to get it going,” she said, showing off the handcuffs and other police-related items decorating her mortar board.

Dylan Jones, who graduated with a 4.0 GPA and his associate degree in arts and science, was a member the All-Virginia Academic Team, the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and the President’s Student Leadership Cabinet.

He plans to attend Roanoke College in the fall to major in biology, and later attend graduate school.

“I definitely want to continue what I’ve done here, stay very active and try to keep a good GPA,” Jones said.

As for PHCC, Jones said he thoroughly enjoyed his time at the college.

“I loved it,” he said. “This school has changed my life. I couldn’t have had a better experience. ... This is my family. It’s a community feel here, and I’m sad to leave, but I definitely want to be an active alumni because they’ve really touched my life.”


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