Turn the Tassel Celebration Provides Safe Graduation Alternative

July 24, 2020

Wayne Community College offered its 2020 graduates memories and souvenirs almost stolen by the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than two months after they would have participated in spring commencement ceremonies, 85 graduates participated in a “Turn the Tassel” celebration. Accompanied by family, friends, and loved ones, the cap-and-gown clad curriculum (college) and Adult High School/high school equivalent graduates were announced just as they would have been in the formal event, had their photographs snapped being presented faux diplomas in official jackets by WCC President Thomas Walker Jr., and turned their tassels to applause.

President Walker presents a diploma folder to a graduate.

The event employed multiple safety mechanisms, from groups waiting outside until the graduate was called to “march” into the large, open atrium of the Wayne Learning Center, appropriate distancing between all parties, masks required of all, and copious hand sanitizer bottles and dispensers.

Graduates and brothers Alvin Ward, a Business Administration major (left under arch), and Daniel Ward, an Associate in Science major, pose as their parents take photos.

ShaRita Dixon, a Business Administration major, was accompanied by her family, including her daughter Kylie. The child wore a red gown and cap so she could emulate the graduation her kindergarten was not allowed to hold, and she proudly strode beside her mother when she went to accept her diploma. ShaRita, who plans to return to the college to study for her real estate license, said she chose to come out for the Tassel event because, “I worked hard for it.”

ShaRita Dixon (left) adjusts her Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society stole while her daughter Kylie waits to process with her.

Robert Martin Castro attended with his mother, Medical Office Administration graduate Hilda Castro. Ms. Castro said she craved the joy of the ceremony and “I wanted to congratulate myself.” WCC coursework will be a family affair in the fall semester when Ms. Castro will begin the WCC Business Administration program and her son, a Wayne School of Engineering student, will also be taking WCC courses online.

Hilda Castro and her son Robert Martin Castro pause with her souvenir yard sign after participating in the walk-through Turn the Tassel event.

The college had held Drive-Through Celebrations in May on what would have been the graduation days, presenting graduates with T-shirts and yard signs. At that point, the intention had been to hold in-person ceremonies in July.

Faculty and staff applaud from a distance as a graduate and her family walk toward the entrance to the event.

“It’s clear that we’re still not in a position that allows us to have our usual ceremony,” said WCC Associate Vice President for Academic and Student Services Joanna Morrisette. “But we know our graduates deserve recognition for their hard work and we want to be sure they have every opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments.”

A graduate turns her tassel during the walk-through event.

In addition to the “Turn the Tassel” program, the college created a video with special messages from Dr. Walker and 2019-2020 Student Government Association and graduates names called by their division’s deans or associate vice president accompanied by submitted photos. The video is posted on the college’s website.

Wayne Community College is a public, learning-centered institution with an open-door admission policy located in Goldsboro, N.C. As it works to develop a highly skilled and competitive workforce, the college serves 11,000 individuals annually as well as businesses, industry, and community organizations with high quality, affordable, accessible learning opportunities, including more than 140 college credit programs. WCC’s mission is to meet the educational, training, and cultural needs of the communities it serves.

Follow WCC on Facebook (also @WayneCCNewsandViews)Twitter, and Instagram.