On May 12, 2022, Sampson Community College (SCC) held its 2022 Spring Commencement Ceremony for over 360 graduates in both the Associate in Applied Science Degree & Diploma programs and the College Transfer programs.

The occasion marked the College’s fifty-fifth commencement ceremony, with the Applied Science programs beginning at 4 pm and the College Transfer programs beginning at 7 pm. It also marked the first time since 2019 that Sampson CC was able to hold an in-person commencement ceremony for their graduates—much to the joy of many in attendance.

This year, Sampson CC saw 265 Associate in Applied Science Degree & Diploma and College Transfer program graduates, 47 Career & College Promise (CCP) graduates, and 55 Sampson Early College High School (SECHS) graduates for a grand total of 367 in Sampson CC’s graduating Class of 2022.

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On May 12, Sampson CC awarded over 360 graduating students with degrees and diplomas during the College’s 2022 commencement ceremony. (Photo credit/ Krista Lewis)

For both ceremonies, the order of events began with a lovely rendition of the National Anthem sung by Edith Rogers, Division Secretary of Construction, Agricultural, Public Service and Information Technologies at SCC. Following the national anthem, the Academic Procession of graduates, administrators, faculty, and Trustees entered to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance.” Both the Procession and the Recessional March were led by 2022 Academic Marshals: Colby Beatty, Riley Heath, Kayla Jimenez, Amani Joyner, Vanessa Juarez, Emma Mitchell, Jennifer Owens, Angel Pryor, and Sarah Smith.

Opening the ceremonies, Dr. Bill Starling, President of SCC, welcomed the 2022 graduates and their guests as he delivered opening remarks. Joining Dr. Starling onstage were the SCC Board of Trustees, the College’s Department Chairs, and administrative staff. SCC’s Division Chairs and instructors were seated to the right of the graduating students, who sat offstage front and center. After Dr. Starling’s welcome, Dr. Ted Thomas, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, shared a few words, followed by Naomy Guadalupe Guerrero Flores, SCC’s Student Government Association (SGA) President, who introduced the guest speaker for the night: Dr. Gilbert Palmer.

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Guest speaker, Dr. Gilbert Palmer, gives the 2022 Spring commencement address to the Sampson CC graduates. (Photo credit/ Krista Lewis)

Before obtaining his doctorate through East Carolina University’s School of Medicine and becoming a board-certified family physician, Dr. Palmer’s academic journey actually began at Sampson CC approximately 30 years ago. His story, Dr. Starling noted, truly showcases the true meaning of the College’s motto, “Begin Here, Go Anywhere.” In recognition of Dr. Palmer’s extensive coursework completed at SCC and the remainder of his degree requirements completed at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Sampson CC was proud to present Dr. Palmer with an Associate of Science degree during the commencement ceremony—allowing him to join SCC’s Class of 2022 after giving his address to the graduates.

His speech, remarked Dr. Starling, was warmly received by all who heard it—SCC’s Trustees, faculty, and graduates alike.

Dr. Starling explained, “Dr. Palmer, a family physician with the Clinton Medical Clinic, delivered the commencement address to our 2022 graduating class, and his journey actually began here at Sampson Community College. His willingness to narrate his own personal story from Sampson CC to local physician was one of the most meaningful graduation speeches I have been privileged to hear. We were honored to be able to graduate Dr. Palmer with this class as a 2022 Associate of Science degree. On behalf of our college community, we extend our heartfelt thanks to Dr. Palmer and his family for their time with us.”

When asked to come and speak at the commencement ceremony, Dr. Palmer remarked that he briefly thought about declining at first. He didn’t consider himself to be a public speaker in the least bit. However, he expressed that he was not going to pass up such a wonderful opportunity to motivate and inspire SCC’s Class of 2022—and his address did just that.

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SCC students were celebrating every minute of this amazing moment in their “story.” (Photo credit/ Krista Lewis).

During his speech, Dr. Palmer reflected on what he called “his story” and mentioned how his path led him back to SCC and eventually into the medical field after years of hard work. Dr. Palmer encouraged the graduates to remember four key points: Surround yourself with good people, be kind, stay positive, and trust in your story. There will be endless ups and downs, he said, but there will also be endless opportunities each day. He expressed to the graduates that it was now time for them to go find those opportunities, mold them into part of their story, and enjoy every moment of it.

Dr. Palmer stated in his address, “This opportunity has allowed me to reflect on my own journey, my accomplishments, but also the things I can do better. You see it’s all about the story– my story and your story. It’s not just about the grades and scores on tests. For me, it was about starting at SCC while working and having a family. I’m convinced it was my story that got me into medical school, and I encourage you to embrace and tell your story and take it wherever you want it to go.”

He explained, “After several long hot summers in the dry-cleaning business, I realized there was more in my life I wanted to do and I decided to back to school. SCC gave me that opportunity. It was approximately 30 years ago when I took the step that you took– to take classes here. I took classes while running the cleaning business. I was able to redeem myself with straight A’s here at SCC and then onto UNC Chapel Hill for my bachelor’s degree. Then onto to ECU Medical school and residency with my wife and kids in tow. I know you’ve heard this slogan: ‘Begin Here, Go Anywhere.’ This represents my story. Today is the beginning of a chapter in your story.”

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Sampson CC’s students were overjoyed to be able to graduate through an in-person commencement ceremony this year. (Photo credit/ Krista Lewis)

Following Dr. Palmer’s inspiring commencement address, Marvin Rondon, Dean of Student Services, began with the Recognition of Student Achievements, calling each nominated “Outstanding Student” to the stage to accept their certificate. Afterwards, the Conferring of Diplomas and Degrees began with Blair Hairr, Vice President of Academic & Student Affairs, introducing the 2022 graduates and their accomplishments. As the graduates walked the stage, Dr. Starling, Dr. Thomas, and the Department Chair of the students’ respective program were there to shake each of the graduates’ hands, present them with their diploma, and congratulate them on their exceptional achievements.

The closing benediction was then given by Larinda Haight, Vice-Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Following the benediction, Hairr returned to the stage to proudly declare on behalf of Sampson CC’s faculty that the candidates for graduation were in good standing and eligible to receive their respective degree. Closing remarks were then given by Dr. Starling, as he announced that the graduating class may officially, “Turn their tassels.” The ceremony ended with all rising once again for the Recessional March, before going to greet their loved ones and take pictures documenting the momentous occasion.

Sampson CC is tremendously proud of its graduating Class of 2022. The College recognizes the hard work and dedication that has gone into completing their respective degrees & diplomas over the last few years, and appreciates their strength amidst the hardships they’ve faced. We hope our graduating class will continue to make the College proud in all they do, whether it’s immediately joining the workforce or continuing to a four-year university. SCC’s students will go on to do great things in the world. Congratulations to Sampson CC’s Class of 2022, the future is very bright for you.

For more information about Sampson CC or how to apply, visit www.sampsoncc.edu/general-admissions.

About Sampson Community College

Sampson Community College is a member of the North Carolina Community College System, located in Clinton, NC in Sampson County. The college offers many programs to include two-year degrees, college transfer, continuing education and workforce development options and early college education.