Commencement season is here – my favorite time of year! At educational institutions across the country, graduates are enjoying a well-deserved moment in the spotlight. As our country begins to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, those who achieved their goals during these trying times deserve extra praise and adulation.

At Lorain County Community College, we celebrated the class of 2021 with unforgettable tributes to our remarkable graduates. The graduating class includes 1,854 students earning 2,234 degrees and certificates, and an additional 365 graduates earning associate, bachelor’s or master’s degrees through LCCC’s University Partnership – the largest class in the 25-year history of the program. The class of 2021 also includes 94 students who earned an associate degree during the same year that they are graduating from high school through the Lorain County Early College High School and College Credit Plus programs. What’s more, 46% of this year’s graduates are the first in their families to earn a college degree.

National and state leaders congratulate LCCC graduates

Our LCCC celebration kicked off virtually on May 15 with our 57th LCCC Commencement Ceremony. This streamed event featured keynotes by U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona and Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner. Having the nation’s and state’s senior higher education leaders speak directly to our students is an extraordinary testament to the fortitude and academic achievement of this year’s graduates.

In his highly personalized and heartfelt remarks, Dr. Cardona told LCCC graduates, “Go forward with courage, creativity and confidence.” It is sage advice for any graduate, and especially relevant for community college graduates at this moment in time.

U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona
U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona

In reaching the milestone of graduation, our students demonstrated courage. They saw the opportunity of education and stepped boldly toward their futures. As they adapted to a new normal of zoom calls, virtual advising and so much more, they revealed a creativity that no other class in history has demonstrated. And by setting a goal and achieving it, they gained the confidence needed to tackle any challenge they may find ahead. In short, the class of 2021 is remarkably resilient and will make an impact on our world like no other.

Three graduates uniquely poised to impact our world are the first graduates of LCCC’s bachelor of applied science in microelectronic manufacturing (MEMS) program. In 2014, LCCC became the first community college in Ohio authorized to deliver an applied bachelor’s degree, and the only community college in the country to offer an applied bachelor’s in MEMS. Chancellor Gardner recognized this extraordinary milestone in his keynote remarks to the class.

“You are making history today,” Gardner said to the MEMS graduates. “To the class of 2021, congratulations on your emerging life of value as a college graduate.”

Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner
Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner

Students’ success inspires our community

As we celebrate the class of 2021, I’m inspired by our students’ stories, which are as diverse as the community we serve. There are traditional students who came to their community college after high school, like Akua Agyemang – who will transfer to Yale University in the fall. There are adult students who are creating a bright future for themselves and their families, like Sienna Wright; those who were laid off due to COVID and decided to take advantage of retraining programs, like Gregory Stocker. And students who decided it was time that their career aligns with their passion, like Lyn Bruno. Each of these students came to LCCC with their own goals. By meeting them where they were, our LCCC faculty and staff were able to help them get where they want to be.

Clockwise from top left: Akua Agyemang, Sienna Wright, Lyn Bruno and Gregory Stocker
Clockwise from top left: Akua Agyemang, Sienna Wright, Lyn Bruno and Gregory Stocker

Doors of Opportunity open to bright futures

In honor and celebration of our diverse graduates and their accomplishments, LCCC built a large-scale public recognition display we call the Doors of Opportunity. These 21 full-sized doors line a grassy median stretching nearly 450 feet – longer than a football field. Every propped-open door bears a different word, symbolizing the unique journey each LCCC student took to reach graduation day.

LCCC's Doors of Opportunity
LCCC’s Doors of Opportunity

By walking through the door, students not only found the right opportunity on LCCC’s campus, but the support and confidence to lead them into the next chapter of their lives. Every door includes an augmented reality video that shares the personal story of a graduate from each academic program. This innovative tribute celebrates each student’s resilient journey to become a college graduate. Many of our students face incredible challenges, and I’m honored that LCCC was there to help them reach their goals with services and support, delivered with an ever-present focus on equity.

With the graduation of the Class of 2021, LCCC is now 55.3% of the way toward achieving Vision 2025 strategic plan goal of 10,000 individuals earning degrees and certificates by the year 2025. These graduates are more prepared than ever to carve out their path in a new and changing world. Earning a college credential is a reliable way to move up the socio-economic ladder. With nearly half of our Class of 2021 graduates the first in their families to earn a college degree, the future of Lorain County and our entire region is looking brighter than ever.

Watch Secretary Cardona’s full keynote to the LCCC Class of 2021.

Watch Chancellor Gardner’s full keynote to the LCCC Class of 2021.