There was a celebratory feel during Tidewater Community College’s 76th Commencement exercises as keynote speaker Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears led graduates to say together, “I did it! I did it! I did it!”
Earle-Sears, a TCC alumna, shared a message of encouragement with graduates, as she knows what it’s like to walk in their shoes. “Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined from where I sat as a student graduating from TCC that one day I would be before you as second in command in the former capital of the Confederate states. Here I am.”
Family and friends gathered to celebrate more than 1,800 graduates at Chartway Arena on the campus of Old Dominion University. The evening graduation on May 8 was presided over by President Marcia Conston.
During the Lt. Governor’s address, she recalled her father’s early days in America. “My father arrived 17 days before Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his ‘I have a dream speech.’ My dad had $1.75 in his pocket and he worked hard and used that money to get an education because he knew the doors would open as Dr. King said.”
She went on to tell graduates that their newfound knowledge will become part of our narrative and highlight that Virginia is a great place to live, work and raise a family.
“Here you are today. Our country needs you to do well. We in America are not on this planet by ourselves. There are countries that mean us harm,” she said. “While America is not perfect. She is the best we’ve got. So, we are not going to burn our own house down. No! We have a saying in church in fact ‘I may not be what I’m supposed to be, but I’m not what I use to be.’ And that’s America. In fits and starts she is getting there.”
Earle-Sears added, “I’m so honored to be here to celebrate what you have accomplished. God bless you and God bless our great Commonwealth of Virginia.”
The speaker for the graduates, Jacob Ramirez, 21, completed an Associate of Science in Engineering and is transferring to Virginia Tech where he will study computer engineering. A 2021 graduate of Salem High School, Ramirez wanted to stay close to home for college.
Ramirez said, “At TCC I’ve met and interacted with all kinds of people, each one with their own story to tell. I’ve learned from those experiences. And also learned the value of taking the time to get to know people wherever you are.”
He added, “Our time at TCC is just the first stop. We have transfer students going away to colleges, people going into the workforce and students who have already started their careers and families and returning to pursue degrees. Congratulations class of 2023. We’ve each taken a separate journey to get to where we are. And from here we can go anywhere!”
Ramirez participated in the STEM and Engineering Clubs while at TCC, completing many projects with classmates. He gained close friends and three from his core group will head to Tech with him in the fall.
The ceremony continued as families and friends cheered and snapped photos. Graduates crossed the stage and joined a TCC alumni network of 100,000 and counting.
If you missed graduation, you can watch the TCC livestream.