PORTSMOUTH — Saturday’s graduation ceremonies at Great Bay Community College will celebrate the accomplishments of students and demonstrate the college’s role in helping them achieve their goals. The college will award 320 degrees and certificates to students this May.
The college will conduct two ceremonies, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. in the College’s Student Success Center at the College’s Portsmouth campus on the Pease Tradeport. Director of the New Hampshire Division of Economic Development and former President of Great Bay Community College, Wildolfo Arvelo will speak to the graduates.
The stories of the graduates highlight the many paths that students take to get to and from Great Bay. The also affirm Great Bay’s commitment to “65 by 25,” a system-wide goal of the Community College System of New Hampshire to ensure that 65 percent of the state’s adults 25 and older will have some form of post-secondary education by 2025.
Gina Lincoln, 45, left home as a teenager, tried and failed at college and began a family. After changes in her home life, she established a cleaning business to support her family, and enrolled at Great Bay after her son graduated from high school and joined the Air Force.
“The fact that my son made a huge decision inspired me to do the same,” said Lincoln. “I was looking though schools online and saw the Department of Homeland Security class at Great Bay. My son was protecting our country, and Homeland Security was a way I could still protect my son.”
She will graduate with honors on Saturday with an Associate degree in Criminal Justice and a certificate in Homeland Security. “Now I’m going to phase out my housekeeping and have been speaking with a neighboring town about becoming a part-time police officer,” she said.
For Regina Mills, who will graduate with an Associate degree in Liberal Arts, Saturday’s graduation ceremony does not mark an end of her educational journey, but a stop along the way. She already has an Associate degree in Criminal Justice and a certificate in Homeland Security, which she earned from Great Bay in 2012 and that she used to get a job and support herself and her family. She returned to Great Bay in 2016 for her Liberal Arts studies, and is working toward a bachelor’s in sociology from the University of New Hampshire.
Long term, her goals include a Master’s in criminal law and a PhD in law.
Great Bay has improved her her ability to demonstrate to her children, ages 10 and 9, the value of hard work. “I understand and can relate to juggling school, family life and social life,” she said.
Ali Al-Jewad, 21, will graduate with an Associate degree in Engineering Science on Saturday. He came to Great Bay from Iraq, where he emigrated from with his family. He plans to transfer to UNH for a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and is interested in auto mechanics and the auto industry.
For him, Great Bay proved to be the perfect school for help with acclimating to life in the United States.. “The administration is very good,” Al-Jewad said. “The professors are good. The students are nice and kind, and everyone has been very helpful. And it’s also an affordable college. That was important.”
For Austin Wolfert of Rochester, who was homeschooled during high school, college was a big transition. “Great Bay helped me come out of my shell. I have received so many opportunities to gain experience and stand out as a student. I never expected my time at Great Bay would be so rich.”
A biology student, he has used his time to prepare for a career in pathology. As student government president, he learned about leadership and governance. His academic skills opened medical research opportunities at other schools and helped prepare him for his work toward a bachelor’s degree, a short-term goal.
“As I move on to UNH next semester, a process which Great Bay has made incredibly easy, I feel abundantly prepared in terms of my educational and professional life,” he said.
Great Bay Community College is a comprehensive postsecondary institution offering quality academic and professional and technical education in support of workforce development and lifelong learning. Great Bay Community College is part of the Community College System of New Hampshire, a public system of higher education consisting of seven colleges in Berlin, Claremont, Laconia, Concord, Manchester, Nashua, and Portsmouth. The colleges offer Associate degrees and career training in technical, professional and general fields, including transfer pathways to baccalaureate degrees. The college’s second campus, the Advanced Technology & Academic Center is now open in Rochester offering academic courses and a degree program in Advanced Composites Manufacturing. For more information on Great Bay Community College, visit www.greatbay.edu.