Seats on the west side of Noyes Stadium were packed as Paris Junior College held its 94th spring graduation ceremony Friday evening, May 17. PJC had 450 students graduating with a certificate or associate degree.
The ceremony opened with an invocation from Student Government Association president Burkhart. “The Ending of the Beginning” was performed by PJC music student Sydnee Hawkins.
Among the graduates were students ranging in age from 17 to 63 years. They were 42 percent male and 58 percent female and represented 38 different Texas counties, nine different states, and the foreign countries of Zimbabwe and Japan.
“In this year’s graduating class, we have 42 students receiving their associate degree who will graduate from high school in the next two weeks,” said PJC President Dr. Pam Anglin. “Of these, 27 are from Quinlan Ford High School, five are from Miller Grove High School, five from Cumby High School, two are homeschooled and one each from Chisum, North Hopkins, and Roxton high schools.”
The students took college courses while attending high school and received high school and college credit for the coursework. The high graduate numbers from Quinlan Ford H.S. stem from a partnership that started in 2009. The ISD pays tuition, fees, and books for their students and buses them to the PJC-Greenville Center early on weekdays, returning them later to the high school.
The Distinguished Service Award, PJC’s highest student honor, was announced by Vice President for Student Access and Success, Sheila Reece. This award has been presented annually to a PJC graduate since 1935 when it was first given to Louis B. Williams, who later became president of Paris Junior College. The Award recognizes academic achievement and service to PJC and the community and is given to an outstanding graduating student. PJC faculty and professional staff determine the winner. The 2019 nominees included John Altman of College Station, Giselle Benitez of Paris, Maddie Ellsworth of Clarksville, Jayla Oldfield of Detroit, and Breanne Smallwood of Mt. Pleasant.
This year the Distinguished Service Award was presented to John Altman, who is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, honored on the President’s List and Dean’s List, involved in Student Government and a Student Government Officer. He participated in many projects including Habitat for Humanity’s A Brush With Kindness, a Salvation Army Bell Ringer, and helped spruce up PJC flower beds. He has also volunteered at the Boys & Girls Club, The Wesley Center, Christ Community Church, Justiss Elementary, Aikin Elementary, and Givens Early Childhood Center.
Altman was nominated for both Mr. PJC and PJC Homecoming King and was a two-year member of the baseball team. He was named as a First Team Academic All-American by the National Junior College Athletic Association and received Academic All-Conference honors. He also received the Bobby Walters Cup Award in 2019 for being the athlete with the highest grade point average at PJC.
Next Dr. Anglin presented a special President’s Leadership Award to Cyan Burkhart. She represented PJC at Community College Day at the Texas Capitol this legislative session and as a cheerleader, performed in the PJC Choir, led regional Student Government meetings with poise and confidence, and served as Student Government President.
This year 14 graduates earned highest honors with a 4.0-grade point average through all their coursework towards their degree, and 30 earned high honors with a 3.9 to 3.99 GPA overall.
In closing, Dr. Anglin commented that community colleges enroll 72 percent of all freshman in the State of Texas and 78 percent of all students graduating with bachelor degrees have community college hours on their transcript. She encouraged the graduates with a parting quote from Dr. Seuss and traditional Irish prayer.