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CCGA hosts annual spring graduation ceremony, complete with candy bars
Posted 05/06/2016 09:48AM

But it wasn't that which had her rattled.

It was instead the fact that the heels of her platform shoes had just broken off and she may have to walk barefoot in her cap and gown.

"It just, pop, just broke," Blair said as she waited for convention center staff to find super glue to piece the materials back together. "I'm super excited to graduate, but my shoe, this is giving me some real stress right now."

While her wardrobe malfunction may have created tension for the clinical laboratory technology student, the leader of her educational institution wasn't feeling that same pressure. Instead, the day marked one of his favorite two days of the year.

College president Greg Aloia loves the first day of school, to shake new students' hands and welcome them to the Brunswick campus. The only day to trump it is graduation day, where he can again shake students' hands and watch them launch into their futures.

"I love to see them come, and I love to see them go, go out and do great things with the skills they were able to learn with us," Aloia said.

That moment came Thursday at the Jekyll Island Convention Center, when Aloia and college faculty and staff saw more than 350 students graduate from the school with a four-year bachelor's degree in a variety of fields, including education, nursing and business.

The 2016 graduating class is the largest during Aloia's time at the college, which has been nearly three years.

Along with the hundreds of students-turned-degree holders is one student who can lay claim to being awarded the college's 1,000th bachelor's degree.

"From here, our next goal is to award 10,000 bachelor diplomas," Aloia said. "And for many of our students, both traditional and non-traditional, they are first generation graduates. They are the bearers of that honor and it is so special to see them be handed a diploma, in front of such proud family members, and be an inspiration."

Not only has the number of diplomas earned by students increased this school year, so has the range of diversity among students. Some 14 states and 10 countries were represented Thursday, with the oldest student being 65 years old and the youngest 19.

"It seems we have crossed that magic threshold where we are seeing growth and diversity reach all corners of our campus," Aloia said.

That's a fact not lost on Robert Mydell, who until his graduation yesterday, had served as the president of the college's Student Government Association.

During his four years at the college, Mydell said he readily noted the expansion of the student populations, the physical growth on campus, as well as the increase in student diversity. Originally from Paulding County, Mydell has lived in Brunswick for the past 12 years, and opted for Coastal Georgia because he saw potential, he said.

In his message to his peers and their families at the graduation ceremony, Mydell spelled out for students the keys to success, literally, now that they are transitioning to their next life chapter.

"These are the ABCs of life. A, it's for accepting challenges. B, for believing in yourself. C is converting thoughts into actions," Mydell said.

His speech went through each letter, one by one, with him even hitting on X- "x-ray your own life"-, Y- 'yearn to create"- and Z- "zealously reach for your goals."

Along with the alphabet, Mydell spoke about the encouraging faculty and staff on campus who he said have always been more than willing to spend a few extra minutes to foster relationships.

While a student, Mydell learned important lessons in the classroom, but admits many of his most memorable moments happened outside the walls of academia. Being an active student, getting involved in a variety of student life activities and organizations, has made him more confident in himself and has helped him sharpen his talents.

"That's the main message I want to deliver to other students," he said prior to the ceremony. "I want freshman coming in to know that having a social life is very important, as long as it doesn't distract from studying. Get involved, find a sport or a student organization, get to know the coast and this area. That's what college is all about."

Now, after four years of studying — a time during which he switched from majors from education to criminal justice — Mydell is ready to take on what lies ahead.

"I'm ready. I'm ready for what's next, to move on and move up," he said.

But of course it won't be easy, he added.

That message is one that rings true to Aloia, who advised them of three options they have from here.

"They can drop anchor and stay where they are," Aloia said while preparing for his speech. "They can drift out into the sea and just float along. Or they can hoist their sails and head into their futures. That's what we strive to prepare them to do — hoist those sails and go see what is waiting for them out there. They are ready. They have earned it. And I personally could not be more proud of these students."

Which is why Aloia not only handed students their well-deserved slips of paper as they crossed the stage and into their next phase in life, he also handed each one his signature sweet reward.

"Every year, I hand out a diploma and a candy bar to every student," he said. "Usually it's just Snickers, but this year, we added in Milky Ways. You know, peanut allergies."

PHOTO: Graduates from the School of Education and Teacher Preparation - Middle Grades Education majors.

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