By LAUREN MCDONALD firstname.lastname@example.org
Nearly 260 College of Coastal Georgia graduates walked across the commencement stage on Sunday, shook their president's hand and received their diploma, along with one last candy bar.
"I don't want you to be without one more Snicker — or Milky Way, if you have a peanut allergy," said Greg Aloia, CCGA's president, who has long had a tradition of handing out Snickers to late-night studiers in the school's library. "When you come to get your degree, there's your last Snickers up there."
The commencement ceremony, held at the Jekyll Island Convention Center, honored not only the college's Class of 2017, but also its president, who will be retiring June 30.
"You guys are a special class," Aloia said. "We started together four years ago."
Aloia said he was honored to get to know the young men and women sitting before him in their graduate gowns and colorfully-decorated caps.
"Your eyes light up when you talk about your journey here ... Your passion inspires me, your energy definitely renews me," he said. "I'm 27 on my 43rd lap and I'm more energized now than I was when I came here."
CCGA had a record number of spring graduates this semester, and the graduates ranged in age from 17 to 67. The school also broke its record for the number of honor graduates, with 87 honor students receiving their degrees on Sunday.
The graduates represented 12 states and nine international countries.
Olivia Morton, a graduate, said she was honored to sit among the Class of 2017.
"All the parts of our college journey have helped us to develop a deeper understanding of life and have molded us into being the successful individuals that we are today," she said.
She also urged her classmates to be proud of their accomplishments.
"We have prevailed through many times of pain, laughter, and yes, even some confusion," she said. "Yet we stand here today, looking mighty fine, I must say."
Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey also congratulated the graduates, and he honored their departing president with a ceremonial key to the city.
Harvey said Aloia continuously ensured that the college campus remained engaged in the community during his tenure.
"Dr. Aloia, you keep opening up doors, OK?" Harvey said.
Aloia thanked his supportive fellow faculty members for the success they've brought to the college during his time there.
He encouraged the students to enter the next phases of their lives and make a positive impact on the world.
"We're in good hands in this country with students like you," he said. "You've affirmed my faith in our collective future. We're in good shape with students with your attitude and your passion."
And before the graduates lined up to cross the stage and receive their diplomas — and their chocolate bars — Aloia had one last request.
"I ask that when I shake your hand, please allow me the honor and the privilege to look you in the eye and tell you how very proud I am and to congratulate you today," he said.
Photo by Bobby Haven of The Brunswick News
College of Coastal Georgia students listen to speeches prior to receiving their diplomas on May 7 during the 2017 Spring Commencement of Jekyll.