Local residents participate in Tyler Junior College Fall 2017 semester commencement exercises

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Tyler Junior College recently held commencement ceremonies recognizing 682 candidates for graduation for the Fall 2017 semester Friday, Dec. 8, inside the Wagstaff Gymnasium.

The graduation ceremonies were divided into two sessions, with the morning ceremony recognizing graduates in the School of Nursing and Health Sciences and the School of Professional and Technical Programs, while the afternoon ceremony recognized graduates in the School of Engineering, Mathematics and Sciences and the School of Humanities, Communications and Fine Arts.

TJC President Dr. Mike Metke was on hand at the commencement ceremonies to confer the degrees and certificates of proficiency and certify the graduates.

Candidates for graduation residing in Bullard included Jaime Bridges, Colby Green, Karrigan Green, Kathaline Jacks, Billy Jones, Suzanne Kelley, Kayla McPherson, Katy Pavelka, Will Roach, Krystal Smart, Jamie Vinson, Cregory Wheeler Jr., and Karen Woolverton.

TJC graduates residing in Flint included April Beasley, Shannon Bedsole, Cynthia Bewley, Emily Bromaghin, David Byrd, Jermaine Descartes, Tony Gibbs, Jenny Gunther, Brenda Johnson, Jaymelee Leon, Taylor Lucas, Jody Nichols, Robbie Noyes, Michael Powell, Lorena Rebagliati, Christopher Reigstad, Monica Reyes, Justin Rives, Amye Scarborough, John Skelton, Russell Waterman, Trevarius Watson, Michael Williamson

For the first time in its history, Tyler Junior College awarded Bachelor degrees during fall commencement ceremonies, presenting Amanda Camp, of Lufkin, Shannon Kassaw, of Palestine, and Michelle Trammell, of Tyler with TJC’s inaugural Bachelor of Science degrees in dental hygiene.

“This group of graduates has more top students than ever before at TJC,” said Metke. “We’ve never had more honors students and academic scholars than we have now. We’ve never had more students who graduated in the top 10 percent of their class. This is truly a golden era for TJC.”

TJC is the first and only community or junior college in Texas authorized to offer a Bachelor of Science degree.

In early 2015, TJC leaders put a plan in motion to pursue legislative approval for the degree. Legislative action was granted in late 2015, after then-State Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, State Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, and Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, sponsored companion bills in the Texas Legislature to create the program. Additionally, numerous resolutions from throughout East Texas supported this visionary direction.

Following the legislative designation, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board subsequently approved the program; and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools/Commission on Colleges, accredited the College as a Level II, baccalaureate-granting institution. TJC began offering this degree in the fall 2016 semester.

During the 85th Texas Legislative session in 2017, State Sen. Bryan Hughes and Reps. Clardy and Schaefer expanded the legislative approval to have TJC designated as one of the state’s four Legacy colleges, regarding community colleges awarding baccalaureate degrees. In addition to TJC, Legacy colleges are: Brazosport College, Midland College and South Texas College.

“Our entire region is to be commended for its commitment to higher education and for coming together to make this historic day possible,” said Dr. Juan E. Mejia, TJC provost and vice president for academic and student affairs.

Commencement speaker for the ceremony was TJC alumnus State Sen. Bryan Hughes, who was introduced by Metke.

In October, Hughes was honored as TJC’s Distinguished Alumnus during the Homecoming Alumni Awards program.

“Way back in 1989, I was sitting where you are, and I’ve seen many blessings from the Lord since that time,” Hughes said. “TJC is a very special place for me personally.”

Hughes also mentioned his mother who, as a single mom, figured out a high school education wasn’t sufficient to support her family’s needs; so, she came to TJC as a non-traditional student and earned her nursing degree.

“We all have different needs that have been met here,” Hughes said. “Higher education is a backstage pass that gets you into places that you can’t get without it. As you move on with your careers, whether it’s more education or going into the workforce, you will enjoy the bounty of the American dream in ways that you wouldn’t have been able to were it not for your work at TJC.”

For more information about TJC, visit www.tjc.edu.

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