LAWRENCEVILLE -- Nearly 160 students of Georgia Gwinnett College turned their tassels at the institution's commencement ceremony Friday afternoon, a symbolic gesture of graduation.
It's the largest graduation class to date for the six-year-old college.
"This commencement is nearly double the size of our spring commencement earlier this year," said GGC President Daniel J. Kaufman. "As we pass the four-year mark for our first, smaller freshman classes, we expect the size of our graduating classes to grow dramatically."
Emily Valentino became the 500th GGC graduate to date. A resident of Dacula, she attended Central Gwinnett High School and enrolled at GGC in 2007 as part of its first freshman class.
"I was excited about the early childhood education program at GGC," Valentino said. "I have wanted to be a teacher since I was in ninth grade. GGC's education program was amazing."
She completed her student teaching experience at Parsons Elementary School and hopes to teach for Gwinnett County.
Valentino is part of another major achievement for the college: the inaugural graduating class for the school of education.
Its first seven graduates included Katie Burrows, Loganville; Stephanie Heinrich, Loganville; Heather Kulp, Lawrenceville; Ann Marie Miller, Bethlehem; Nicole Olano, Lawrenceville; Valentino, Dacula; and Erica Wagoner, Bethlehem.
In addition, three other students earned their teacher certifications through the school of education including Meagan Eads, English, Hoschton; Bradlee Miller, history, Lawrenceville; and Jonathan Mihetiu, history, Dacula.
Richard Tucker, a member of the University System of Georgia's Board of Regents, presented the keynote address at the ceremony.
"In earning your degree, you have done the right thing, the best thing, for your future," Tucker said.
"In this modern, global, interconnected world, the future belongs to the highly educated," he said. "So by earning this degree, you have put yourself in the best possible position long-term. And I can't tell you how important it is to think long term."