GOLDSBORO – Family, friends, and faculty gathered to help celebrate the accomplishments of Wayne Community College’s 2023 graduating class at a commencement ceremony held at the Maxwell Center on Dec. 15.
The fall graduating class includes both summer and fall curriculum graduates, with a total of 561 students receiving 856 certificates, diplomas, and degrees.
Jonathan Brickhouse received a diploma in Collision Repair and Refinishing Technology while he works toward the program’s associate degree. “I’m 41, and now I’m graduating. It’s a great feeling,” he said.
Brickhouse is also a member of the College’s Upsilon Chi chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. After completing his degree, he plans to open an autobody and collision repair business.
Jessie Eckenrode said it “feels awesome” to graduate and receive her associate degree in Forestry Management Technology. “It feels like a long time coming,” she said. She is eager to enter the workforce and is considering continuing her education at North Carolina State University.
During her time at WCC, Eckenrode served as president of the College’s Forestry Club where she grew close to her classmates. “It’s pretty bittersweet,” she said about graduating. “The people in my program became like a little family.”
William Best works in IT for Wayne County Public Schools and received a certificate in IT Support and Services during the ceremony. At the age of 45, he is also working toward an associate degree in the program and hopes to eventually earn a four-year degree as well.
“I enjoy it. The classes are challenging but informative,” Best said. “They have definitely helped me in my professional life, and I’m getting more information for the job that I already do.” He plans to open an IT business geared toward helping veterans.
The event’s student speaker was Derek Sparrow of Seven Springs, who received an associate degree in Risk Management and Insurance during the ceremony. Sparrow worked as a truck driver for nearly 15 years, but his career ended when cancer and two heart attacks leading to bypass surgery at the age of 42 forced him to slow down.
“I knew I had to make some changes, not just for myself but also for my sons,” said Sparrow. “I decided I was going to go back to school.” In the fall of 2021, Sparrow enrolled in the Risk Management and Insurance program at WCC. He has already begun his career in the industry, starting as an agent at Aflac before being promoted to assistant district coordinator of the Goldsboro district.
“We all have our own story,” Sparrow told his fellow graduates. “It took courage for all of us to take this step in life, no matter when we decided to take it. My challenge to you is to never give up, and do not let your story stop here.”
WCC President Patty Pfeiffer encouraged graduates to reflect on the gift they have given themselves through the hard work of continuing their education. “The knowledge you have gained is yours to use and share,” she said. “It is yours to build upon. It will be the gift that keeps on giving.”