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'Don’t stop learning,' Westover tells MECC Class of 2019

Mike Still • May 11, 2019 at 1:00 PM

BIG STONE GAP — Mountain Empire Community College sent its 46th graduating class into the world with practical wisdom from two of its graduates.

More than 200 students marched during commencement exercises Friday under the traditional large white tent and mostly sunny skies, as college President Kristen Westover, Professor Emeritus Richard Phillips and MECC Board Chairman Rodney Baker led the faculty-student processional.

According to college officials, MECC this spring has awarded to 570 graduates 118 associate of arts and sciences degrees, 182 associate of applied science degrees, and 147 certificates and 271 career studies certificates.

After a welcome to the audience and graduates from Baker, graduate and MECC Student Government Association President Cameo Smith told her classmates that her time at the college helped her learn to balance responsibilities and activities while teaching her about leadership.

“You will always have your foundation here,” said Smith.

“We are so proud of you,” Westover said. “We also recognize those who played a part in your accomplishments,” she said before leading applause for graduates’ families and friends.

Westover said that students often encounter teachers who go beyond teaching or demonstrating skills to inspiring them.

“I hope you have had several of those teachers who have inspired you,” said Westover. “My one request of you after graduation is don’t stop learning.”

The two commencement speakers were also members of Friday’s graduating class. Vicki Pearcy, also the college’s assistant registrar, said she had her doubts about whether to return to work or go to college after one career and then becoming a full-time mother to her two sons.

“I doubted it was possible for me to earn a college degree after being out of high school longer than I care to say,” Pearcy said, crediting God; her husband, Eddie; mother, Patricia Berry; and guidance from her professors with her success at MECC.

“Congratulations, we did it,” said Pearcy.

Co-speaker Kara Mullins became an MECC graduate just days before her graduation as a Union High School senior. Mullins said she found her strength in God and support from her family and the college, even after being hospitalized during her first year studying at MECC.

Balancing high school sports — Mullins played for the Lady Bears basketball team — and earning salutatorian status as a high school graduate also challenged her and caused her to draw on her family, teachers and faith.

“Whatever you do, do it in love,” Mullins said.

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