On May 7 this year, we will hold Commencement for the 2017 graduating class of BCTC. It is my favorite time of year. I am struck each year with the dual meaning of that word. “Commencement” is used to denote a graduation or degree-completion ceremony, and also the opposite, a beginning. I do see graduation as the start of a new life for many students. Having achieved on the pathway of education, they have worlds open to them that they did not have before. It is a worthy celebration for students and their families. It is not unusual for ten or more family and friends to accompany students on this significant day, and what a joy it is to see the love and pride they have for their student who has worked hard to reach this milestone. Faculty and staff too, who have nurtured and advised and supported students, are like proud and happy parents.
Our celebration includes a recognition event for student scholars and leaders as well as the graduation ceremony. We have many graduating students worthy of recognition. Each program identifies an outstanding graduate, then two students are selected to be the college’s Outstanding Technical Graduate and Outstanding Pre-Baccalaureate Graduate. These two have also received national recognition this year.
Leandro Braga is the Outstanding Technical Graduate. He is graduating with three degrees – an Associate in Applied Science in Environmental Science Technology and in Welding Technology and an Associate in Science. After working in construction, Leandro decided to pursue a welding degree here at BCTC. Through Phi Theta Kappa, he learned of other programs of interest and also enrolled in Environmental Science Technology. He has won numerous awards including the 2016 NASA College Aerospace Scholar. Leandro was recently selected as a 2017 Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team Bronze Scholar and recognized at the international convention for Phi Theta Kappa.
The BCTC Outstanding Pre-Baccalaureate Graduate is Deanna Chesser. She is receiving an Associate of Arts degree. Deanna was also named Kentucky’s 2017 Coca-Cola New Century Scholar by achieving the state’s highest score in the All-USA Community College Academic Team Competition. This puts her in the top 50 of more than 1,800 students nominated for this honor by colleges across the country. She was recognized at both the international convention of Phi Theta Kappa and the annual conference of the American Association of Community Colleges. She plans to transfer to UK to pursue a bachelor’s degree and eventually a doctorate. She hopes to work as a clinical psychologist helping women and children who have suffered abuse.
We could not be more proud of all our students who have achieved academic honor, followed their dreams, overcome challenges and even tragedies, and persevered to complete their programs, earn their credentials, and pursue their careers. We honor them with this day of celebration. We honor them also with our Commencement speaker, Dr. Pearse Lyons, who overcame his own challenges to found and grow his company, Alltech, now a top five animal health company that employs more than 5,000 people and conducts business in more than 120 countries. Alltech supports innovation and achievement in science, education, and the arts. Dr. Lyons is a fitting speaker for this event. We congratulate and celebrate the graduating class of 2017!