2018 Commencement full of pomp and circumstance
by Daphne J. Thomas
Graduation day holds tremendous significance. Students beam with excitement and accomplishment as proud family and faculty look on, recognizing the rite of passage commencement signifies in each student’s journey.
“Commencement is my favorite day of the school year,” Southwest President Dr. Tracy D. Hall said. “It’s when we see our students take those final steps with us and those first ones into the next phase of their lives,” Hall added. “It’s so fulfilling to watch that happen and it never gets old.”
This year’s commencement ceremony was unique in that the College selected two students to speak rather than the traditional single speaker. “Having two speakers that were selected by faculty nominations was a special touch this year and truly reflects the diversity of the students we serve at Southwest,” Vice President for Student Affairs Jacqueline Faulkner said.
“One student speaker was a traditional-aged student who completed a Tennessee Transfer Pathway degree and the other was an adult student who completed an academic program that prepared him to go directly into the workforce,” Faulkner added. “This is truly mission-centric to a comprehensive community college.”
The students, Sabrina Washington (Associate of Arts, Psychology) and Jensel Garcia (Associate of Applied Science, Computer Engineering Technology), spoke passionately, encouraging their fellow graduates and the crowd of about 10,000 guests at FedExForum to dream big and never give up. “Always know: You got this,” Garcia said as his parents and siblings from Guatemala smiled broadly from the second row on the floor. “We are so proud of him,” Garcia’s father said. “It’s unbelievable what he has accomplished.”
Washington redefined Southwest for the crowd, putting her own spin on what the College means to her and her fellow Saluqis. “When I first arrived at Southwest, I often heard the phrase ‘Southwest is a stepping stone.’ However, I have not been too fond of that phrase,” she said. “I view Southwest as a place of elevation. Why? Once you step through the doors of Southwest, you are propelled to a totally new level from when you first arrived,” she said to thunderous applause.
Both students are well on their way into the next phase of their life. Garcia pondered multiple job offers before graduation, settling on an electrical engineering job with Sharp Manufacturing of America. Washington is preparing to continue her studies this fall as an Honors Fellow Transfer Scholarship recipient at Middle Tennessee State University where she will pursue her bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism. She dreams of launching a career in television and radio.
Congratulations to the Class of 2018 and the faculty and staff who taught and supported them along the way!