356 earn degrees, diplomas at COA commencement
By Reggie Ponder
Thursday, May 10, 2018
College of The Albemarle conferred a combined 379 degrees and diplomas on 356 graduates at its 55th Spring Commencement Wednesday evening.
The event, held in the newly renovated Performing Arts Center on the college’s main campus in Elizabeth City, also included the presentation of the President’s Cup Service Award to Ashley Tedrow, a culinary arts diploma graduate from COA’s Edenton-Chowan Campus. Megan Bundy and Natasha Bekjarska were the other service award winners.
President Robert Wynegar told graduates they should pursue their passion and make choices with integrity. Wynegar said community colleges are the best investment that can be made in both students and the economic development of the region.
A number of COA graduates expressed confidence Wednesday that their education at COA has prepared them for what they want to do next.
Christoper Davis, 58, of Hertford, who earned a culinary arts diploma at the Edenton-Chowan Campus, said in an interview before the ceremony that his goal is to own his own business.
“It’s going to take a lot of time and a lot of energy,” Davis acknowledged.
Davis said his plan is to acquire a food truck and travel to different locations in Hertford, Elizabeth City and Edenton, including festivals and other events in those communities.
But don’t look for Davis’ truck to offer the typical high-fat, high-calorie offerings. He said his focus will be on healthy food.
While Davis said while he understands he’ll need to offer customers what they want, “I’ll try to give it to them in a healthier way.”
Davis said he started cooking for his family when he was younger but later decided he wanted to get trained in a variety of cooking techniques.
Madison Duggan, 32, of Moyock, earned an associate degree in science. She is currently enrolled at Old Dominion University in Virginia, working on a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in criminal justice.
Duggan works as the office manager for ADS Roofing and Siding. She plans to pursue a doctorate and eventually work as a child psychologist with the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit.
After she became pregnant with her fifth child Duggan dropped out of COA to be a stay-at-home mom until her children were older. She said her return to school demonstrates that it’s never too late to go to college.
Kyle Nixon, 20, of Perquimans County, earned an associate degree in general business administration and plans to spend the next year working on transfer courses at COA before enrolling at Elizabeth City State University to study accounting.
“I took a lot of accounting for my degree,” Nixon said.
Nixon said he would like to stay in the area to work after completing his studies at ECSU.
One of the things he enjoyed about COA, he said, was participating in the Student Government Association.
“I think the best part of being here is helping out in the community,” Nixon said.
Sydni Combs, 21, earned an associate degree in business administration on the Dare County Campus in Manteo. She is the receptionist at Manteo Elementary School and said her degree would make her eligible for a number of possible promotions within the Dare County Schools.
Combs said she appreciated being able to study at the Dare Campus.
“If it wasn’t there I probably wouldn’t have gone to college,” Combs said. “It wouldn’t have been possible for a lot of us.”
Wynegar thanked the graduates’ families during Wednesday’s ceremony.
“Without your support and encouragement they may not have completed this journey,” Wynegar said. He then instructed graduates to turn around and thank and honor their families.
Lynori Griffin, COA’s SGA president, encouraged fellow graduates to pursue their passion, be kind to others and always ask questions.
“You may have finished your journey here but you are nowhere near done,” Griffin said.
Wynegar recalled that he discovered his passion in a calculus class and later returned to that same lecture hall as a graduate student to teach a class. Education has become his lifelong passion, he said.