By LAUREN MCDONALD firstname.lastname@example.org
A line of 52 graduates, all in caps and gowns, walked across College of Coastal Georgia's campus for the final time Friday evening.
CCGA held its 2016 fall commencement ceremony Friday, the first in the school's history since it became a four-year institution.
To symbolize the momentous occasion, and to begin a new tradition, the students walked as a group from one side of campus to the other.
"It's a long time coming — five years," said Audury Hollingsworth, just before she entered the ceremony and received her degree in public affairs. "But it's been great."
More than 100 graduating seniors completed their baccalaureate degree programs this fall.
CCGA's president Gregory Aloia and Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey addressed the students at the ceremony.
As the first fall commencement, the event marked not only an important moment in the graduates' lives but in the college's continued growth as well.
"As the college continues to grow in enrollment, that means we're going to have more graduates," said Michael Butcher, assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students. "We have some students that gradate with a degree in December, and we wanted them to have the opportunity to walk when they graduate."
The event is a major milestone in a graduate's academic career, he said.
And for many, it's an equally important moment for their families.
"A lot of students, this is the first time that someone may graduate in their family, so it's an opportunity for grandparents and parents who didn't get this opportunity to see somebody go through this completion," said Sharon Sellers-Clark, a professor of communication. "And then the younger ones see somebody that they know graduate, and look to the future and say, 'That's what I want to do.'"
For Rev. Abra Lattany-Reed, the events on Friday — from the stroll across campus to the final walk across the stage — symbolized a major transition both in her life and for the college.
Lattany-Reed received her second degree Friday night, in hotel hospitality and management.
"I feel blessed to be a part of this and have this tonight, because I began my career out here at Brunswick College when it was just Brunswick College," she said. "And now I've seen it grow and evolve to what it is today. And to be able to say that it's still invested into my life is a blessing."
The college has invested in every part of her life, she said.
"I'm probably the oldest person graduating tonight in the group, but I'm very proud of that," she said.
She encouraged more Glynn County natives to take advantage of opportunities the college could offer them.
"I think it's the best kept secret for our community," she said.
And the final walk on Friday only further emphasized for Lattany-Reed the significance of what she accomplished.
"It's emotional," she said.
Photo by Bobby Haven of The NewsCollege of Coastal Georgia students walk across campus to the Howard Coffin gym for the 2016 fall commencement ceremony Friday evening.