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Appalachian graduates encouraged to serve their communities

By Jeff Cloninger

BOONE, N.C.—Making a positive difference in the lives of others was a recurring theme in the remarks made at Appalachian State University’s Fall Commencement Ceremonies Dec. 10. 1,205 undergraduate students and 191 graduate students received degrees during the ceremonies.

View larger imageChancellor Sheri N. Everts congratulates new graduate of Appalachian State University at Fall Commencement on Dec. 10. Photo by Marie Freeman.View larger imageGraduate Dillon Hewitt-Castillo encourages his fellow Appalachian State University graduates to share their personal stories to create relationships and to be of help to others.

“Today we celebrate as our students leave Appalachian prepared to make real and powerful differences in their communities and beyond,” Chancellor Sheri N. Everts said.

Everts spoke of the dramatic effect of the university experience on students, who go on to improve the lives of others.

“Students come to this special place, continue to develop and grow into amazing individuals who go on to touch hundreds and thousands of lives through their professions, civic engagement, and service,” she said.

Everts thanked the graduates for being part of Appalachian Community and congratulated them on their accomplishments.

“To our graduates, I say thank you for being part of our great academic community. Please know you will always be part of Appalachian, and you are our most enduring legacy. I congratulate each of you on your achievements and celebrate the hope for our community, state, nation and world you take forward into a future made all the brighter because of you.”

Students provided the keynote addresses. Dillon Hewitt-Castillo and Carmen Elizabeth Lowe spoke during the morning ceremony for the College of Arts and Sciences, Walker College of Business and Hayes School of Music. Hewitt-Castillo is from Cary and is graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in finance and banking, international business, and economics. Lowe is from Salisbury. She is a third generation Mountaineer and received her Master of Public Administration degree with a concentration in administration of justice. She also obtained her bachelor’s in criminal justice from Appalachian in 2015 with a minor in sociology.

Hewitt-Castillo talked about the value of sharing our stories, for it is through such sharing that people connect and understand and help others in the process.

“Your story is as unique to you as your DNA. It makes you, you. When you are willing to share it with someone, you get to know yourself better…you find your voice…you connect with others…and you never know what portion of your story will unexpectedly impact someone else’s life. Sharing your story is a powerful way to bring you closer to others in times of celebration and times of struggle,” Hewitt-Castillo said.

The theme of making a difference in the lives of others was continued by Lowe. She encouraged her classmates to work for the change they want to see.

She quoted Winston Churchill, “Hear this, young men and women everywhere, and proclaim it far and wide. The earth is yours and the fullness thereof. Be kind, but be fierce. You are needed now more than ever before. Take up the mantle of change. For this is your time.”

Speaking to graduates of the College of Fine and Applied Arts, Beaver College of Health Sciences and Reich College of Education were students Nancy Patterson and Leslie McKesson. Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, Patterson is graduating with a Bachelor of Social Work degree with a minor in Spanish, and McKesson, who is from Lenoir, is graduating with a Doctor of Education in educational leadership.

In her remarks, Patterson stressed service to others. “Becoming involved off-campus during my time here, I have learned the importance of service,” she said. “If there is one thing you walk away with today, I hope it is the inspiration to continue being an integral part of your community, wherever that may be.”

Patterson quoted activist Cesar Chavez, “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community…. Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own. The end of all knowledge should be service to others.”

McKesson began her remarks by referring to a prominent message displayed on campus, “changing the world one student at a time.” She thanked her professors and the university for changing her. “Thank you for making possible an education that has changed me, so that I can now do my part to change the world,” she said. She also exhorted her fellow graduates with these words, “Graduates, what we have gained here places us among the privileged, and our world is truly in need of our voices, our minds, our hands and our feet. I challenge each of us to find our own way to engage with our world – to change it one bold step, one new voice, one inspired student at a time.”