[Clinton, N.C.]- On Thursday, May 9, 2024, Sampson Community College (SCC) held its fifty-seventh commencement ceremony, split between 4PM & 7PM, at the Sampson County Exposition Center for over 360 graduates enrolled in Applied Science or College Transfer programs.

This year, SCC’s Class of 2024 consisted of almost 300 traditional degree & diploma graduates, 24 Career & College Promise (CCP) graduates, and 43 Sampson Early College High School (SECHS) graduates. Applied Science students were honored during the 4PM commencement, followed by College Transfer students at 7PM.  

For both ceremonies, the event began with the National Anthem sung by Meagan Sessoms, Student Government Association (SGA) Advisor & Administrative Assistant, followed by the academic procession led by 2024 Academic Marshals: Reece Bailey, Lensey Cabral, Deryck Hidalgo, Brenna Kammerman, Joshua Lupo, Julissa Ramirez, and Tyler Ward.

Students eagerly awaited to, “Turn their tassels”

Dr. Bill Starling, President of SCC, welcomed graduates and their guests as did Dr. Ted Thomas, Chair of the Board of Trustees (BOT). Afterwards, Jeffrey Bonilla, SCC’s SGA President, introduced the keynote speaker for the night: J. Donald Matthis II.

A local attorney and counselor at law with Matthis Law Firm in Clinton, N.C., Matthis has deep ties to the College. His wife, Robin attended SCC as did his mother, Alice who also taught accounting classes. Matthis himself started in diesel mechanics before transferring to general education at SCC. Afterwards, he went on to earn his juris doctorate from the University of Alabama, after receiving his B.S. in Accountancy and M.B.A.

From 1986-1987, Matthis also taught night classes at SCC. Like he and his wife, both of his children, James and Amberly earned credits at the College before transferring to four-year universities.

J. Donald Matthis gave the 2024 commencement address

In his address, Matthis reminded students to not become discouraged when they encounter “dead zones” in their lives, whether personally, professionally, or educationally. He motivated them to take advantage of the “transition periods” they encounter– that it’s not obligatory to have everything figured out just yet. Relating to his personal experiences, Matthis remarked that SCC was the perfect place for him to come initially, determine what he wanted to pursue, and then return to further his education later on.

“I started in diesel mechanics here, and I did okay, but I quickly realized that I wasn’t naturally gifted and talented in that area,” Matthis explained. “So, then I was in a ‘dead zone,’ I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life now. But I think that’s one of the best things about Sampson Community College. SCC is not necessarily where you come when you know everything and know exactly what you want to do. It’s a great place to come when you want to figure it out.”

Graduates snapped photos with Sampson the Viking

After switching to general education courses at SCC to complete his university pre-requisites, Matthis transferred to UNCW to major in accounting. Looking back at the uncertainty he faced after high school when choosing a career path, Matthis has now had the opportunity to pursue numerous dreams throughout his life, such as professional football, military, music, ministry, accounting, and most recently, law school. However, Matthis noted that he owes the success of his professional and educational journey to SCC—where he ultimately began.

He closed, “I was truly going everywhere, like the College’s motto states, and I didn’t even realize it. I didn’t understand until later on in life how much SCC prepared me for that because it gave me a safe place to take the next step. I didn’t have to take them all, I just needed a place to figure it out. So, appreciate the dead zones, appreciate the transition periods. And if I leave you with one thing, come back. There’s always a place to come back to Sampson Community College to grow. ‘Begin Here,’ Grow Here, ‘Go Anywhere,’ and go with God.”

Some students took the time to get creative with their caps!

Following the address, the Outstanding Students from each of the College’s degree programs were recognized. Every year, recipients are nominated by faculty and staff based upon scholastic excellence, leadership ability and potential for future achievement, citizenship and service to school, maturity in on-the-job situations, and participation in civic and professional activities. 

Spring 2024 Outstanding Students: Demetra Addison, David Antonio-Solano, Colin Avery, Nikita Baggett, Courtney Bass, Jackie Bass, Elizabeth Blanchard, Marbella Braswell, Rosalba Campos, Jarrett Cooper, Joseph Dib, Leslie Mattocks, Kevin McCray, Owen McKoy, Amalia Parker, Kristina Parker, Jose Resendiz Ponce, Fausto Rodriguez, Jr., Xitlali Sanchez-Hernandez, Hildelita Serrano, Jamie Tew, Dakota Warren, Latham Waters, and Caleb West.

Jean X. Ko was the 2024 Academic Excellence Award winner

SCC’s Academic Excellence Award for 2024 went to Jean Ko, an Associate in Teacher Preparation student, who graduated with high honors and as a member of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honors Society. Nominated by faculty and staff, the award is the highest academic honor the N.C. Community College System bestows on students from each of the 58 community colleges in N.C.

Student Ambassadors to SCC for the academic year were also honored: Amalia Aguilar, Armando Avenlino-Ortiz, Stefany Serrano, Ruth Vasquez Iglesias, and Cherilyn Williams; in addition to veterans: Barak Beam, Amanda de Jong, Anna Baptiste, and Jose Resendiz Ponce.

The Expo. Center was filled with loved ones cheering their graduate on

Afterwards, graduates walked the stage to receive their respective degree or diploma. Following the closing benediction given by Larinda Haight, Vice-President of the BOT, Dr. Starling returned to the stage to proudly declare on behalf of SCC, that the students could officially, “Turn their tassels.”

“I want to thank all of our faculty who have not only taught, but encouraged and supported these students throughout their program of study,” praised Dr. Starling. “And to our staff, who provide the important and necessary services that support instruction, provide student services, and maintain the campus. For many of our graduates, careers begin. For others, the coming months will begin their further academic work here or elsewhere. We are thankful to all these students and their families for allowing us to be an important part of their lives. Our best wishes to them. ‘Begin Here, Go Anywhere.’”

Sampson CC is tremendously proud of its graduating Class of 2024. 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. SCC hopes its 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 institution. Congratulations to the Class of 2024, the future is bright for these graduates!

For more information about Sampson CC, its programs, or how to apply, visit www.sampsoncc.edu

Event photos can be found at: https://photos.app.goo.gl/hRHnAxtEQcH9LSif8

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. SCC is committed to the principles of equal educational and employment opportunities for all.