GCC grads ready to ‘jump-start’ futures

Last modified: Tuesday, August 05, 2014

GREENFIELD — In the eyes of student speaker Michael Lewis, a new class of superstars graduated from Greenfield Community College on Saturday.

The college’s 51st annual commencement ceremony honored 282 students who earned associate degrees this year and 97 who earned certificates.

“We have completed this phase of the journey,” said Lewis. “This is the jump-start. This is the kickoff point ... and you couldn’t have had a better place to do it from.”

Lewis — a former student trustee, a veteran and the co-founder of the college’s student veteran network — reminded his peers that life isn’t always easy. He had planned to graduate last year before a failed class got in the way. “I was supposed to be leaving and I failed,” he said. “What I found out and what I learned the next day is that the sun still rose. It rose the day after that. ... Reach for the stars. Keep your wings spread. Do not give up.”

GCC President Robert Pura kicked off the two-hour ceremony by telling graduates that education isn’t one-size-fits-all, and that the best schools offer a custom experience for each student.

He also reminded them to appreciate their surroundings as they began the next chapter in their lives.

“The American Dream needs an update and you are up to that task,” said Pura. “Maybe the greatest treasures you could dream of are right here ... in your own backyard.”

Faculty speaker and peace activist Abbie Jenks said that, because of war, pollution and corporate greed, “the world and our country are in deep trouble now.”

But teaching GCC students has been her saving grace.

“My belief in helping others is transformed from one of duty to one of love, as I realize that we are all in this together,” she said. “We were, and are, bonded in the very, very difficult work of creating a culture of peace.”

Jenks later led a majority of the graduates in a pledge, in which students promised to try to improve the “social and environmental consequences” of any job or activity they take part in.

Students broke out into cheers and applause throughout the ceremony, including during award presentations and the awarding of diplomas. In a few cases, GCC faculty and foundation board members took the stage to award their graduating family members with diplomas.

Jenks, who taught human services as well as peace and social justice, was honored as a professor emeritus along with Peter Rosnick, a math teacher and former college dean.

Sharon Roth, an education professor, received the Robert Mugar Yacubian distinguished service award.


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