PCC Holds Graduation Ceremony for Transitional Studies Department

PCC President Lawrence Rouse (standing behind podium) addresses graduates of the college's Transitional Studies programs during a ceremony in the Greenville Convention Center on June 9.

GREENVILLE—Pitt Community College held graduation Tuesday evening for students who have completed programs through its Transitional Studies Department during the current academic year.

Held in the Greenville Convention Center, the ceremony featured PCC administrators recognizing graduates in four categories: High School Equivalency, Adult High School, Career Academy and English Language Acquisition.

“The Transitional Studies instructors, staff and I are incredibly proud of these students and their dedication to their programs of study,” said PCC Interim Transitional Studies Coordinator Sissy Grubbs. “They have worked diligently to reach their goals and have overcome many obstacles along the way. Their hard work has paid off, and they are to be congratulated for their perseverance.”

The largest Transitional Studies group represented at this year’s graduation were High School Equivalency (HSE) program graduates. The 21 students honored during the ceremony passed exams to earn diplomas awarded by the North Carolina Community College System State Board.

Brittany Belcher was one of those students, and, during graduation, she recounted the many challenges she overcame to successfully complete her program of study. She also offered encouragement and sage advice to her fellow graduates.

Belcher said she dropped out of high school as a 16-year-old, thinking she “had it all figured out,” before life proved otherwise. Though she pursued the high school equivalency route at PCC almost immediately after dropping out, she says she started and stopped the program many times before finally finding her way to the finish line.

 “… I have experienced molestation, sexual addiction, drug addiction, alcohol addiction, and abandonment,” she said. “In my adult years, I’ve experienced being a felon, a single mother, sickness, no job, no money, depression, no home of my own, anxiety, and no one to talk to.”

Belcher said her love for her children is ultimately what kept her going, and she thanked her PCC instructors for their continuous encouragement to finish her high school education.

“… I stand here today, 11 years later, to let you all know [that] progressing and moving forward isn’t always about when you finish but how you finish,” Belcher said. “Your growth shouldn’t be measured by the success of your peers. Every single person has their own unique journey; you just have to find which path you should take.”

Like Belcher, graduation was a long time coming for Ana Farias—one of 10 students recognized for earning an Adult High School (AHS) diploma. Having been diagnosed with dyslexia in grade school, she said school wasn’t always easy, but she persevered.

“Dyslexia doesn’t mean you cannot have a normal life,” said Farias, who is now married with children. “I was able to conquer many things in life, and I still am. I have always worked since the age of 14 and used all my natural talents to survive, and I am proud to say that I have never made myself a victim of my circumstances.”

AHS graduates, like Farias, receive high school diplomas jointly awarded by Pitt County Schools (PCS) and PCC after they have completed a set of core courses required by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction and electives required by PCS and Pitt.

A total of 15 students were honored this week for completing Career Academy training. The two-year program was developed in partnership with Pitt County Vocational Rehabilitation Services to provide students with learning difficulties and challenges an opportunity to explore and develop job skills, career choices, academics in career contexts, and goals and objectives for job attainment.

During graduation, Amanda Savage said she had a “good experience” in the academy, even though she didn’t know any of her classmates when she started. She says she is now planning to build upon her training by taking childcare classes at PCC.

“When I started Career Academy at Pitt Community College, I became a good leader in the class,” Savage said. “I helped other students with the computers and helped them with the plants.”

Six students were celebrated for completing English Language Acquisition programming at Pitt. One of them, Colombia native Andrea Mantilla, shared her success story during graduation.

Mantilla said that when she moved to America eight years ago, neither she nor her 6-year-old son could speak English. Though six months of elementary school helped her son learn to speak English fluently, she said finding time for herself to take ELA courses while working and taking care of her child was problematic.

But when the pandemic forced PCC to shift instruction online, Mantilla said she took advantage of the opportunity to learn English remotely. After taking classes two nights a week via Zoom, she not only learned a new language, she also made friends, created warm memories and gained confidence.

“The ELA program helped me to write these words today, and I am in front of you all speaking,” she said during her graduation remarks. “I can hold a conversation, and I can understand what the people are talking about. I can watch a TV program without Spanish subtitles, and I can understand it.”

Mantilla says she hopes to enroll in college someday. Until then, she’s happy she is no longer afraid to speak English or ask questions in any situation. But the best part, she said, is that her son and loved ones are proud of her accomplishments.

This year’s graduation also included the presentation of the Jennifer Knight Memorial Scholarship to Harley Keel and Shaquita Jordan. The scholarship honors the memory of a former PCC student and HSE graduate who died in an automobile accident in 2001. It was established by her family to financially assist Pitt HSE graduates entering curriculum programs at the college.

Through the scholarship, Keel, a Human Services Technology student, and Jordan, who is planning to enroll in Dental Assisting, will receive up to $1,500 each – $750 for two consecutive semesters, as long as they maintain a 2.0 GPA or higher – to offset the cost of tuition, books and supplies.