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Central Louisiana Technical College celebrates graduates

FERRIDAY — After seven years of being out of the workforce, Aaron Stewart knew it was time for a change.

He had received disability and Social Security benefits, but he said he was tired of being supported by the taxpayers and he wanted to earn income on his own.

So he did two things — he got a job with the Louisiana Department of Corrections and he enrolled at Louisiana Technical College Shelby M. Jackson Campus.

And Tuesday, at age 47, he was one of the 59 graduates to walk across the stage at graduation.

Stewart received a technical diploma in air-conditioning and refrigeration, and he said he hopes to get a different job — this time in maintenance —with the DOC.

“I started late, but you are never too old to go back to school,” he said.

For 17-year-old Elizabeth Gillespie, Tuesday’s graduation was an initial run for her upcoming graduation at Vidalia High School. Receiving a technical competency area certificate in phlebotomy and as a nursing assistant, Gillespie was dual-enrolled at LTC and VHS.

She plans to attend Copiah-Lincoln Community College and then transfer to Northwestern State University to study nursing.

“I decided to do this because I care about people, and I am a people person,” she said.

Commencement speaker Lana Morgan, the interim CEO of Natchez Regional Medical Center, told the graduates she believes they will find the careers that follow their graduation rewarding.

“For some of you, this is a stepping-stone in your career, so remember tonight is just the beginning of your education,” she said.

Advising them to set goals but be flexible, Morgan told the graduates to be self-confident but not arrogant, and to never be too old to learn.

For graduate Eric Washington, 21, it was a love of learning that led him to enroll at LTC and pursue a degree in ICT-Computer Networking Support.

“When I was younger, I was really into computers, and I went to school to extend that learning,” he said.

LTC-Shelby M. Jackson Campus Dean Mignonne Ater said she sees nothing but potential for Tuesday’s graduates.

“I am extremely proud of each and every one of them,” she said. “They have worked hard, and they have many years ahead. I wish them all the best.”