Co-Lin graduates realize dreams Friday

Published 2:26 pm Friday, May 11, 2007

NATCHEZ — “Today is a special day for those of us receiving our degrees: a milestone in our respective life journeys. For some, it is a fulfillment of a dream,” said Louis Felter of Natchez, the commencement speaker at the 35th annual commencement Friday night for Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Natchez.

As he spoke those words, one graduate Joyce Newell began wiping away a tear. She knew personally about the life journeys of which Felter spoke.

Twenty years ago, just after graduating from high school, Newell began her college education at Co-Lin. But her family needs and responsibilities, like so many who attend community colleges, took first priority. Newell left school, but said, “I always had it in my mind to return.”

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For those 20 years, Newell kept in contact with education, serving as a reading program coordinator at Morgantown School, all the while, she said, feeling the tug to return to Co-Lin.

And return she did, earning her associate in arts degree Friday night, and being selected to give the benediction. In the audience were her husband, Randall Newell, an employee at Co-Lin, and her daughter, Renada Newell, a freshman at Co-Lin.

“Words cannot describe the feeling I have seeing my mom walk across the stage and get her diploma,” Renada Newell said. “She has worked hard for it and very well deserves it. I am so happy for her and I hope that she continues to pursue her dream.”

“This was a great accomplishment in my life. I thank God for allowing me this opportunity in my life,” Joyce Newell said.

She plans to continue her college education and eventually teach or counsel children.

Newell credits Co-Lin for guiding her, saying in her benediction, “We thank you, Lord, for the support of our families, friends, Copiah-Lincoln Community College administrative staff, instructors and employees in enabling us the class of 2007 to obtain our goals.”

One of the administrative staff members was achieving a milestone of her own.

Dean Teresa Harrison presided over her first Co-Lin commencement.

“Graduation is such a special time for our students and their families, “ Harrison said. “We graduated almost 160 students. Some of them who graduated tonight are ready to enter the workforce and have the education and skills to make a positive contribution to any employer. Some of them will move on to four year universities and they are very well prepared to do so.”

Harrison, also a community college graduate, added, “These graduates have formed friendships that they will carry with them for a lifetime. They have built relationships with faculty and staff and know that they can call on us in the future whenever they like. Co-Lin Natchez is an outstanding college and we are very proud of our graduating class. Our graduates will always be part of the Co-Lin family.”

A poignant moment came when April Lowery of Natchez said to the Co-Lin employees in her farewell address, “Without the support and kindness you have shown, many of us would have given up … You have made us feel part of the Co-Lin family. We thank you, and you will not be forgotten.”