The 46th Annual Commencement celebration at the Rappahannock Community College Warsaw Campus took place on May 11 and saw 400 students earn diplomas or certificates. This group of graduates will be able to jump into the working world and begin their career of choice or transfer to a four-year school to continue their education.

Dr. Elizabeth Hinton Crowther, president of RCC, spoke and set the stage for the evening, by highlighting the accomplishments of her school, including the scholarships the RCC Educational Foundation give each year; the new Military Friendly status of the College; the high ranking of the RCC Nursing program and more. Crowther also highlighted the achievement of the RCC Technology Department, announcing that the team earned a Digital Community Colleges Survey honor for being the #2 ranked community college for using a range of technologies to improve services (with 5,000 or fewer students).

Crowther then gave the stage to a member of the Class of 2018, Brittany Ward, of Gloucester, who shared her story of failure, success, and leadership as she pursued her goal of becoming a professional nurse.

Ward’s story inspired many, including U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) who referenced her journey more than once during his keynote address.

For Warner, Ward’s story of failing twice as she made her way to the top of the RCC Nursing program and ultimately graduation. Warner shared how he failed at “life” three times before getting involved in the development of the cellular industry, and thanks to hard work and insight, he was able to help form the NEXTEL corporation, which eventually was acquired by Sprint.

“Through my success in business and success in politics, none of that would have been possible if I had not I hadn’t been willing to try, but also to take the consequences of failure,” said Warner.

“As Brittany said, there is nothing wrong with failure, as long as you’re able to get back up and get back into the game,” he said. “I hope you’ll take those same kinds of chances and risks as well.”

Throughout his story, Warner shared three points that he wanted the graduates to hear and remember. Not fearing failure, staying engaged in the national conversation and political process and never “forget to call your mother.”

“The truth is — you didn’t get here alone,” said Warner. “There’s someone out there in the crowd who encouraged you along the way.”

“After [graduation], go find them. Don’t tweet them, don’t Snap Chat them, don’t Facebook them … go call them and thank them and tell them that you love them.”

Crowther then took the stage to honor longtime RCC English professor Glenda Lowery, of Tappahannock, proclaiming her a professor emeritus, in honor of her 37 years of service to the College.

Once that completed, the moment all had been waiting for began.

As the students heard their names called, they left their seats to accept their diplomas. For many, it was the first step in a longer journey, like the RCC Nursing ADN and PN students, who will continue on with NCLEX testing and additional training. Over 110 ADN and PN graduates crossed the stage, the most ever for RCC’s top-ranked Nursing program. Others, like the four students who earned a Certificate in Diesel Technology at the RCC Site in New Kent County, will dive into their careers immediately.

Still others, like Kainen Phillips, the student from Essex County who earned all As and one B during his time at RCC will transfer his credits to Virginia Tech in the fall. Phillips, who portrayed the RCC mascot, Squall the Seagull for two years, hopes to be able to continue his mascotting and become the Hokie, changing from a seagull to a turkey.

At the end of the evening, as graduates celebrated with their families, all agreed that the time sacrificed to earn their degree, diploma or certificate was well worth it.

This was originally written for Rappahannock Community College.