PRESTONSBURG – Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC) held its commencement ceremonies on May 6-7 at the Mountain Arts Center.
The college awarded 405 students more than 1,100 degrees and industry-leading credentials.
“You have your degrees, now go change the world,” said BSCTC President Dr. Devin Stephenson.
Proceeding over his first commencement ceremony, Dr. Stephenson made the focus on students and their achievements. He mentioned programs like the Floyd County Early College Academy, which has accumulated more than $3 million in scholarships in three graduating classes (39 students).
He honored Zac Hall, a senior at Wesley Christian High School, who is the first student in his school to finish high school with a college degree. He has received a full-paid scholarship to the University of Kentucky.
The commencement was the first for the Johnson County/Paintsville Early College Academy. Seventeen high school seniors from Johnson Central and Paintsville high schools were awarded degrees.
A special moment during the May 6 ceremony came when Danny Ratliff crossed the stage to receive his Associate of Science degree. Dr. Stephenson walked back to the podium and highlighted Ratliff’s story.
A laid off coal miner, Ratliff returned to school and has been accepted to the Appalachian College of Pharmacy in Grundy, Va.
That received a standing ovation.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes was the keynote speaker for the May 6 ceremony.
“The future of our Commonwealth is bright,” she said. “And I firmly believe the best of our Commonwealth resides in our community and technical colleges.”
Jared Arnett, executive director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) was the keynote speaker for the May 7 commencement ceremony.
He encouraged students to find their passion and use that passion to build a life, a career and to make a difference.
“If we are ever going to get this thing [the challenges facing eastern Kentucky] right, it’s going to be now. It’s going to be with you,” said Arnett.
Dr. Stephenson highlighted two laid off miners during the May 7 ceremony. Greg Castle, of Johnson County, lost his job and enrolled through the Accelerating Opportunity Kentucky program. Michael Preston, of Floyd County, also lost his job and was able to enroll in college through the HOME (Hiring Our Miners Everyday) program through the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc.
“These men are retrained and retooled to compete in the new and global economy,” said Dr. Stephenson.
He also highlighted a father and son who graduated together through the same program (Welding Technology). Matthew Ray, 43, and his son, Jacob Ray, 23, both graduated with high distinction. Matthew served in the military for 15 years and worked as an ASE mechanic for 15 years. He welded as part of his job, but he decided to return to school after talking to his son about enrolling in the welding technology program.
“This is something special, and something you don’t see every day,” said Dr. Stephenson. “This is what makes community and technical college special: you have the capability to touch every segment of the population.”
Deborah Trimble, president and chief executive officer of Paul B. Hall Regional Medical Center, was honored with the Faculty Service award.
Dr. Robert Hughes, Mary Westfall Holbrook, Sheila Belcher, Betty Hunt Montgomery and Philip Haywood were named Outstanding Alumni.
Tammy Ball and the late Dr. Bill Loftus were recognized with the Great Teacher award.
On May 7, the college’s Allied Health programs held a pinning and commencement ceremony for its registered nurse, respiratory therapy and dental hygiene programs.
The Nightingale Award for Clinical Excellence was given to Dallas Anderson. Hannah Dials was recognized with the Outstanding Achievement award. Dials and Autumn Daniels were recipients of the Dr. Gopal and Dr. Mina Majmundar scholarship, which is awarded to the top students in the associate degree nursing program.
Rebecca Justice was honored with the Outstanding Graduate award in respiratory therapy. Stephanie Burkett was the recipient of the Clinical Excellence award.
Ashley Price was recognized with the Dental Hygiene program’s Star award, and Rachel Collins and Amanda Frederick were recipients of the Golden Scaler award.
405 students earn more than 1,100 degrees and credentials