WATERTOWN — Dr. Ty A. Stone, the president of Jefferson Community College, is telling students that when they feel they can’t do something, to remember the accomplishment of graduating in adversity she’s never seen before, which was capped off this weekend with a drive-through diploma presentation ceremony on campus.
JCC’s class of 2021 includes 144 students who graduated in December 2020, 289 in Spring 2021 and summer candidates as well. The total degrees or certificates totaled 442, since nine students earned more than one. Nearly 30 percent of the graduates were active duty soldiers, family members, veterans, retirees or members of the Army Reserves.
It was expected that 160 cars with graduates inside would file in a line on campus and wait to receive their diploma and be photographed with the school president. It was an opportunity to bring some celebration to an at-times somber few days. The outdoor feature of it, at least, could be brought back.
“Hopefully,” Mrs. Stone said before the event, “when we get past the pandemic we can bring some of these elements into our regular commencement.”
The diploma ceremony, which was called DiplomaPalooza!, followed the commencement ceremony on Friday, where a distinguished alum named Nathaniel J. Chapin, who attended JCC at the age of 13 and now works for Google, delivered the keynote address. Mrs. Stone also spoke to students, telling them to remember this accomplishment.
“If you think you can’t do anything,” she said, “remember that you did this.”
And they did it in the face of ever-changing obstacles.
“I think that definitely speaks to their levels of resiliency,” she said. “It’s not just this aspect of their lives, but every aspect of their lives changed in a moment, and they still decided that this was important enough for them to get it done. I’m excited every year to celebrate the graduates, but this group of graduates really have a place in my heart and my spirit because they worked really hard. It’s the most adverse time I’ve experienced in my lifetime.”