Labette Community College’s 95th annual commencement was the first of its kind, being virtual, with its students miles apart rather than sitting together in the Parsons Municipal Auditorium after filing in to an orchestra playing “Pomp and Circumstance.”
“You may have heard it said, ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste.’ What we have experienced together and continue to experience at LCC is unprecedented,” LCC President Mark Watkins said.
Students have experienced celebration for successes, frustrations and the disappointment of failure, and even disappointment in major accomplishments that did not get to be fully realized.
Watkins said as commencement is the pinnacle of academic success, they chose to still have a virtual graduation to honor the students.
To the students, Watkins said he hoped in the transition from meeting on campus to classes online was a challenge for students.
“This means you were unexpectedly forced to make a change. This means you have adapted and overcome the barriers imposed upon you. Congratulations,” Watkins said.
Many others had to overcome the struggles and frustration of change to help students finish out their year, from teachers and other staff and administration to students’ families and friends.
“We are simply a microcosm of what you will experience once you leave LCC. You will face challenges. You will find ways to overcome challenges. There is simply no place you could better learn to overcome challenges than here at Labette Community College,” Watkins said.
Graduate Jenna Kendrick spoke about the end of the semester and the graduation ceremony being far from ordinary, just as each students’ journey to get to where they are is likely far from ordinary.
“We are Cardinals. Our stories, our journeys, our ability to adapt to change is extraordinary. Our lives may take time to get back to their normal routine. Globally, students have learned to adapt and change our daily routines to find a new norm throughout these last two months. Learning to cope with change is what we will be doing the rest of our lives,” Kendrick said.
Commencement marks the beginning of change for their futures.
“No matter what, we will be adapting to a new way of life,” Kendrick said. “It is a natural feeling to fear change, to fear the unknown. Humans are creatures of habit. Everyone has drastically altered their habits since spring break. … The COVID-19 pandemic has opened our eyes to uncertainty and change. … Life is full of uncertainty, but to grow as a person, we must learn to grow and adapt to uncertainty and change.”
With uncertainty can come doubt.
“One of my role models told me, ‘If your dreams don’t scare you, then they aren’t big enough.’ To make these dreams become a reality, we must embrace the change,” Kendrick said.
Graduate Josie Smith spoke about the challenges and the skills students gained from accepting those challenges.
“This graduating class will definitely be remembered as one of a kind,” Smith said.
Smith, the daughter of Kevin and Cherie Schenker and Leland Smith, graduated with Associate of Science degrees in accounting and business administration. She is a member of the All-Kansas Academic Team and was named the New Century Scholar as the top-scoring team member for the state. Smith served as president of Phi Theta Kappa and is a part of the regional and international award-winning Distinguished Officer Team. She is also the president of Phi Beta Lambda and served as the state treasurer this past year. Smith served as vice president of the Student Government Association and was named a Top 20 Cardinal last year. She volunteers in her community. In the fall, Smith plans to attend Pittsburg State to major in accounting. She graduated with magna cum laude honors.
Kendrick, the daughter of Peter and Bethany Kendrick, graduated with an Associate of General Studies. She was named to the All-Kansas Academic Team and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, serving as its homecoming queen candidate. In addition, she is a member of the Biology Club and Student Veterans Organization. She is active in the Catholic Youth Organization and Parsons Recreation Commission Dance while also being a certified nurse’s assistant and a community volunteer. Kendrick will attend Pittsburg State University in the fall to major in nursing and will be a part of the ROTC program. She graduated with magna cum laude honors.