As Theresa Holmes walked the stage of the Durham Performing Arts Center on Monday, she was already thinking about her next step.
Holmes joined more than 250 students to graduate during the 2018 Spring Commencement this week. The 55-year-old grandmother earned an Associate in Applied Science Degree and certificates from the Paralegal Technology program.
But her mind was on her interview at a law firm later in the week.
“It’s the end of a season and the start of a new one, and I’m ready for it,” she said as she stood in the line of mortarboards and tassels waiting to enter the auditorium. “I’ve had a lot of support from Durham Tech, and I’m going to miss many people.”
Hundreds walked – in some cases danced – across the stage with smiles on their faces and exited with degrees, diplomas, or certificates in hand.
“My family and friends have been through so much with me, and I’m just so proud to get to share this moment with them,” said Jamison McLean, who graduated with an Associate in Arts degree. “Durham Tech has helped me reach my dreams, and I’m going to the school that I set out to get into when I started, UNC-Chapel Hill. … I’m just so excited to close this chapter of my life but also to open a new chapter.”
Aja Binta Touray, 28, also was thinking about her new chapter.
The 38-week pregnant Touray was graduating with a diploma from the Licensed Practical Nursing program.
“It’s very important to me,” she said as she stood in line sporting bright yellow flats. “I want my son to know I made it despite everything. I made it because of my husband and my mom.”
Once her child is born, Touray said she wants to pursue a job as a registered nurse.
Touray wasn’t the only soon-to-be graduate who was thinking of family Monday night.
Around seven years ago, Molly Fahey watched her newborn son fight heart failure in the pediatric intensive care unit at Duke Health. Witnessing how the respiratory therapists helped to save her son’s life compelled Fahey to study respiratory therapy at Durham Tech.
She graduated with an Associate in Applied Science Degree in Respiratory Therapy.
“I’m really excited and really looking forward to moving on,” Fahey said before the ceremony. The graduate added that she expects to begin her new job in Duke Hospital’s pediatrics department in July.
Both of Fahey’s sons were among her family and friends who attended the event.
After the processional of faculty and graduates, the Rev. Lori Pistor of Presbyterian Church USA gave the invocation, and Durham Tech President Bill Ingram and John Burness, Chair of the Durham Tech Board of Trustees, welcomed the attendees.
“For more than 57 years, Durham Tech has served as a place where residents of our community can forge great futures,” Ingram said. “So congratulations … to all (the) students who will walk across the stage tonight, joining thousands of Durham Tech alumni who do great things for themselves and their families, our community, the nation, and the world. We are proud of your accomplishments.”
The night’s guest speaker, Dr. Phail Wynn Jr., appeared after Ingram. Wynn is a Durham Tech President Emeritus and is currently the Vice President of Durham and Regional Affairs at Duke University, a position from which he will retire in June.
“I spent 30 years and six months of my professional career at Durham Tech, and as president emeritus, I remain a proud member of the Durham Tech family,” Wynn said to the audience.
“To all the graduates that are being honored tonight, I’m certainly pleased to extend warm congratulations to you. It is always pleasing to me to acknowledge educational achievement because it implies sacrifice and motivation. You dedicated yourselves to increase your opportunities for professional and personal development, and you have succeeded in these endeavors marvelously.”
Article by Stephanie Turner
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