Speakers focus on looking toward the future at South Georgia State College’s 2021 Waycross Campus Commencement

Commencement ceremonies were held on South Georgia State College’s Waycross Campus on May 14, 2021 with a portion of the 446 SGSC graduates from summer and fall 2020 and spring 2021 being recognized. Among the total number of graduates were 93 receiving bachelor degrees from one of SGSC’s eight baccalaureate programs, including the first cohort of teacher education graduates, and 20 dual enrollment students receiving associate degrees a few days shy of their respective high school graduations.

Mrs. Mary Kathryn “Katie” Deason Perritt was the commencement speaker for the morning ceremony. Mrs. Perritt is a Family Nurse Practitioner at Blackshear Family Practice with roots firmly planted in the local community. A native of Waycross, Mrs. Perritt’s educational journey included times on campus with her father Bill Deason, retired Chief Business Officer for the former Waycross College, then later as a dual enrollment student at the former Waycross College and continuing on to earn her associate degree in nursing from SGSC in 2009.

Mrs. Perritt shared her journey that took her on several paths between graduating as a nurse and accepting the position at Blackshear Family Practice. She talked of the experiences and the struggles that have culminated in the job of her dreams and placed her in a position where she feels she is exactly where she belongs. With her nursing background, she shared some words of wisdom she wished someone had told her before her first year of nursing. The words were not only significant for the nursing students, but all graduates in attendance.

“You have no idea how much you don’t know. I encourage you to continue to learn and grow in your careers and seek knowledge beyond what is required. Constantly strive to know more,” Mrs. Perritt explained. “Learn valuable lessons from all members of the healthcare team. Everyone has a story to tell and experience to share.” She continued by saying, “Take care of yourself. Take time to enjoy and celebrate your accomplishments, but also take time for self-care when times are tough. Also, get involved to do something to give back to the community that has given you so much.” In conclusion, she encouraged the graduates to never forget to love, respect and honor patients, as well as others they come in contact with throughout life, in order to succeed.

Mr. Bert Smith, superintendent of Ware County Schools, served as the commencement speaker for the evening ceremony. Mr. Smith has strong ties to SGSC as he attended the former Waycross College and earned an associate degree in teacher education while playing for the Swamp Fox golf team. As superintendent, he played a role in the creation of the new bachelor of science in elementary education and special education program in 2019 as well as establishing opportunities for SGSC education students in classrooms throughout the system working with mentor teachers.

Mr. Smith spoke briefly about the challenges everyone in the educational system faced during the time of the pandemic. He emphasized that despite what has happened, we are now looking to the future and where we will go from here. “You are about to make a change,” he told the graduates. “I want to share a few words with you as you begin to think about that change in your life.”

“Assume the good in people, even when it’s difficult to do. When we assume the good, we give ourselves more time to appreciate what’s around us because we aren’t looking for the bad,” he shared. He explained that our decision on how we react or respond is determined by how we assume things. Our response is better when we assume the good.

Moving forward, Mr. Smith asked the graduates to think about whether they cooperate or collaborate. He said, “If you are a part of a team, more things happen when you collaborate. It’s good to cooperate but to make things happen, we must collaborate. I challenge you to learn to collaborate in whatever situation you are in with your future careers.” Mr. Smith also shared his thoughts on what he has found to be successful. “Set goals for yourself. Write them down and keep track of what you are doing. Plan because proper planning prevents poor performance,” he said. “When an opportunity arises, take full advantage of it. And finally, take care of yourself. And always, think of where you’ve been and ask yourself where do I go from here.”

As part of the ceremonies, SGSC President Dr. Ingrid Thompson-Sellers shared key academic and athletic accomplishments from the 2020-2021 academic year. Highlighting the year was the approval of the new bachelor of science in mechanical engineering technology degree, beginning fall semester 2021. This program brings the number of baccalaureate degrees for SGSC to eight. Dr. Dean Thornton was recognized on his retirement in 2020. He served as associate professor of anatomy and physiology for over 12 years. Dr. Thornton remains a loyal supporter of the college, most recently attending the Dye Foundation’s Birdies for Bucks golf tournament, which raised funds for scholarships. Ms. Sarah Braswell was also recognized on her selection as SGSC’s 2021 Staff Scholar-in-Residence.  Funded through the SGSC and Dye Foundations, the purpose of the program is to provide the relevant support to a staff and/or faculty member as they engage in work, outside of their regular duties and responsibilities, to further the mission of the college. The Hawks basketball team was congratulated as the GCAA District 1, Region 17 and Southeast District Champions as well as for the team’s appearance in the national tournament. Special recognition and congratulations were given to the inaugural cohort of graduates in the bachelor of science in elementary and special education degree program.

Dr. Sellers extended her congratulations to the graduates. “At South Georgia State College, our vision is to prepare and graduate students who will accomplish their career goals and lead the region to economic success. We are proud of our mission and the strong economic impact we are making in southeast Georgia. We prepare students to compete in a global society and be successful professionally and personally in life,” she said. “Despite the challenges with recovering from a period of loss, pandemic, social unrests, divisiveness, political change and destructive stormy weather, we made it through, and we all have a story to tell. I encourage you to go forth and write your own story using what you have gained at your now alma mater, South Georgia State College.”