The weather predictions were gloomy, but the rain clouds held back their tears for our 2018 Commencement ceremony. There was no way the overcast skies could dull the shine on the faces of our graduates, their family and friends as they gathered to celebrate the awarding of well-earned degrees. Held on the grounds of CCBC Essex, the ceremony was scheduled to go on “rain or shine.” Fortunately for us, there was more shine than rain as thousands gathered in honor of this milestone event.

I always say our Commencement ceremony is the climax of our academic year. It is truly the hallmark of the good work that we – faculty and staff — do throughout the year. It is a reward, not only for students and their families, but for the tremendous efforts made by the hard-working people across CCBC.

More than 900, of our 3,000 graduates actually attended the Commencement ceremony and it was a sight to behold. Seeing the sea of black caps perched atop the graduates’ heads made my heart proud. It is a symbol of accomplishment that I never tire of seeing.

Tonya Green, the President’s Distinguished Graduate and commencement speaker gave one of the most rousing speeches in recent memory. She shared her story of returning to college after a 30 year hiatus. And, she concluded with a promise to give back to others. She pledged a $900 scholarship for the next five years to help students much like her — older, single parent with a dream to pursue college. It was her challenge to graduates to give back whenever they saw a need.

So, I salute the graduating Class of 2018! CCBC’s reputation rests upon the keenness of their minds, the compassion of their hearts and the skill in their hands.  A majority of them will remain to live and work right here in our communities: they will get jobs, buy houses, pay taxes and send their children to local schools. They will make our communities and economy stronger. They are CCBC’s gift to the community.