Georgia Gwinnett College students are all smiles following the fall commencement exercises Thursday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. (Photo: Georgia Gwinnett College)
DULUTH — It was a long line of goodbyes for the 282 Fall 2013 graduates of Georgia Gwinnett College during Thursday’s ceremony at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
In keeping with tradition, the students exited GGC as alumni in the same way they entered the institution— through a line of faculty and staff on both sides. This time, instead of welcoming the students into the GGC family, they were sending them off into the world.
“If we can change the individual, they can change a family, who can then change a community,” said interim president Dr. Stanley C. Precezewski. “That’s what GGC stands for.”
The fall commencement ceremony honored the graduates and left them with a message from keynote speaker Homero Gonzalez, a 2011 graduate of GGC and two-time Emmy Award winner for work with Telemundo Atlanta, who immigrated to the U.S. at the age 5.
“Do not be afraid of the unknown,” Gonzalez told the graduates. “Enjoy the mystery of the unfamiliar and rejoice in knowing that the opportunities are endless.”
Gonzalez also relayed a story about when he first entered high school and how his advisor suggested he take the technical diploma route, as opposed to the college prep route.
“She insisted that because I was still learning English, I should conform to a technical diploma,” he said. “She said that concentrating on improving my English and that learning a trade was probably a better option than a college degree.
“That’s the extent of the potential she saw i me. Imagine if I would have conformed. You should always forge your own path—and like my father, I did.”
After that, Gonzalez said he wished he could go back show his advisor his two Emmy awards to which the crowd applauded.
For many of the graduates, it was a message that only confirmed the hard work they had already put in up to that point.
For Kevin Turnbow, who earned his degree in Information Technology, working a fulltime job and going to school full-time was a delicate balance.
“It got especially hard at the end,” he said. “From work and the upper-level classes for my major, I sometimes wondered if I would get through it. But my family helped me get through it, encouraging and pushing me along the way.”
Turnbow admitted he at first didn’t want to walk at graduation, and only decided to do so on Wednesday.
“I wanted to give my family that joy of seeing me walk,” he said. “They’re as much a part of this as I am.”
As the students exited, the words of Gonzalez echoed with many.
“You are leaving this ceremony today with a college degree — the most powerful weapon you can use to change your life, the life of your family, and even the world,” he said. “Don’t settle. Don’t conform. Go on and do great things.”