Approximately 379 graduates glowed as the newest products of Coahoma Community College Saturday morning at the institution’s 70th Commencement ceremony. The uncontainable joy of family and friends spilled over onto the sides of the James E. Miller Stadium bleachers when seats were all filled.
Valedictorian of the 2022 graduating class, Chelniah Pollard, presented a farewell address just after salutatorian Jaylen Townsend brought greetings in which graduates were reminded that their time at CCC has prepared them for more significant endeavors.
“Thank you all for the laughs, the fun, the love, and most importantly the memories,” said Pollard to the CCC campus community. “Yes, there were days where you simply lacked the motivation to push forward. Nevertheless, you did.”
Federal co-chairman of Delta Regional Authority, Dr. Corey Wiggins, delivered a keynote address to the class. Wiggins has served as a visiting assistant professor of Health Policy and Management at Jackson State University and as executive director of the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP. The Alcorn State University alumnus received his Doctor of Philosophy degree in health promotion and health education from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Wiggins opened his speech congratulating and admonishing the gowned honorees to “take time to savor this moment.”
Reflecting on his childhood growing up in Hazelhurst, Miss., the father of three shared memories to drive key points that would enhance the students’ lives. He recalled walking to church on second and fourth Sundays with family.
“For folks in small towns and communities, you know if you did church on second and fourth Sunday, that means your pastor was at his other church on first and third,” he said.
Wiggins then spoke on his family history, marveling that his great-grandfather and other family members who were sharecroppers all contributed financially to buy land in the 30s to make a crucial point about the privilege of having a support system.
“We all stand upon the shoulders of our ancestors, so make sure you take time to appreciate the folks who have supported you on your journey here today,” he said.
“Your family and supporters in the stands, they’re here to support you because they have expectations for you; they see their dreams in you. Everybody may not understand it, but I promise you, if you believe it and put forth the actions, it will happen for you.”
He closed quoting rapper Kevin Gates, which received fond approval of shouts from a few graduates.
Miriam Howard, who joyously graduated with Phi Theta Kappa honors and an associate’s degree in general education, is delighted to have furthered her education at Coahoma.
“My CCC experience was one to remember because I made remarkable, lifelong friends, lifelong connections,” Howard explained. “I’ve networked with a lot of people; the people here have set me up with people that will be a part of my future.”
Just before the conferral of degrees, CCC President Dr. Valmadge T. Towner thanked Wiggins for imparting wisdom to the grads. The Golden Class of 1972 then took a graceful stride across the stage to celebrate 50 years since their milestone achievement. Towner noted that their graduation from Coahoma came at a time when funding was scarce and integration had not fully set in.
To end the ceremony, Board of Trustee president Dr. Dennis Hawkins gave stirring remarks.
“This is your day. It hasn’t been easy, but because of your stay here, you have a story to tell,” Hawkins told. “Whatever your destination, take the Lord with you,” he encouraged, permitting the pursuit of dreams large and small.
View Saturday’s Commencement Day photos here