OCTC grads celebrate their promising futures

Graduations, like Owensboro Community & Technical College’s commencement Thursday night the RiverPark Center, are usually a celebration of things to come rather than a conclusion.

For Megan Gray, a 2018 graduate with an associate’s degree in applied science focused in business administration, this is certainly true. Gray is one of 15 U.S. Bank employees who took advantage of a program to complete their degrees in 18 months while working full time.

She said she was a little nervous but mostly excited to finish her program.

“I really loved the classes and learned a lot,” Gray said. “It was an amazing experience.”

She said the opportunity gave her a new perspective, and she was thinking about maybe getting a bachelor’s degree in the future.

While most graduates were celebrating the possibilities that will come from their hard work, a few like Courtney Austin and Corinne Byrne got in some practice for another graduation next week. Both Austin and Byrne are Owensboro High School seniors who spent the last two years participating in an early college program and will graduate high school ready to move on to their concentrated majors at a four-year university.

“It’s going to make the transition so much easier,” said Austin, who is interested in athletic training at Eastern Kentucky University. “I’m really glad for the opportunity we had and the help from our program director.”

Byrne, who wants to study journalism at Northern Kentucky University, said she believes a dose of real-world experience will also help them in the coming years.

“The most eye-opening thing has been that some people don’t care, so you have to,” Byrne said. “I think we’re going to be prepared for what’s expected from us.”

During the ceremony, hundreds of graduates, friends and family packed into the RiverPark Center to celebrate the students’ efforts. There were so many attendants that seats were set up in a side-auditorium where supporters of the graduates watched the ceremony through a live-feed.

Opening remarks were given by OCTC President Scott Williams, followed by a performance by the OCTC Community Chorus. Their song was accompanied by large thunderclaps from the quickly passing storm outside, but the performers powered through.

Keynote remarks were delivered by Candance Brake, executive director of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce. Brake told the graduates about the legacy of stubborn optimism that built Owensboro, and how their efforts were now part of that legacy.

“You can’t drive two blocks in Owensboro without seeing this characteristic of stubborn optimism,” Brake said. “All around us are institutions built by groups or volunteers that said ‘why not.’ … I challenge each of you to continue that legacy of stubborn optimism.”

By Jacob Dick Messenger-Inquirer