May 5—Aiken Technical College graduates celebrated the completion of their associate's degrees, certificates and diplomas after a challenging year of COVID-19 at Tuesday's commencement ceremony.
Guest speaker Keyatta Priester, the community development manager at Aiken Electric Cooperative, sent the students off with words of advice and encouragement.
In addition to her role at Aiken Electric, Priester is involved in the development of Aiken as a commissioner for the Aiken County Commission for Technical and Comprehensive Education, the governing board for the college.
Priester related her own experiences coming from Allendale County and attending USC Aiken, facing challenges along the way. She focused on the "three P's": place, position and priority.
"The world requires us to persevere. There are good times — that's the easy thing. The tough times are where you're going to need to look at the places you've been, the positions you have held during those tough times, when you didn't know what to do. Your priority will guide and direct you," Priester said. "Congratulations, Aiken Technical College Class of 2021."
Hudson Memorial CME Church pastor the Rev. Brendolyn Jenkins Boseman delivered the invocation and benediction.
"We recognize the sacrifices that so many of these families have made for their graduates, and we honor them tonight," Boseman said.
Aiken Tech students earned associate's degrees in art, science, criminal justice, early care and education, nursing, computer technology, industrial maintenance, marketing and more. Certificates, including computer networking, cybersecurity networking, nuclear fundamentals, medical coding and more were also awarded.
Jack Hostettler graduated Tuesday with an associate's degree after serving in the Navy.
"I was scared that we wouldn't be able to have some type of social interaction because of COVID, but we overcame that," Hostettler said.
The commencement ceremony wasn't Hostettler's first time around. He said he has graduated from three other programs, including medical assisting.
Hostettler has the following advice for students just starting out: "With repetition comes perfection. Don't give up. Just keep on trucking."
Fellow student Kristian Haase had his first college graduation before leaving high school. The dual-enrolled student said he didn't expect to graduate from Midland Valley High School with an associate's degree.
With his Aiken Tech education in tow, Haase said he plans to attend Middle Tennessee State University to pursue a career in piloting.
"It was a lot of work," Haase said of his dual enrollment. "... Overall, I think it was worth it."
Aiken Tech also recognized two faculty and staff members for a special honor.
IT technician Kimberley Hardy won the Staff Member of the Year Award. Marlena Isaac, patient care assisting instructor, won the Faculty Member of the Year Award.