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Saturday's graduation at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster was a big step for Jeremy Stroud.
The 33-year-old history major tried his luck at college several years ago, but says he didn't have the focus to succeed. After going from city to city playing in a small rock band, he realized it was time to go back to school and work toward a career.
He was awarded an associate's in science degree during the ceremony at USCL's Bundy Auditorium.
The keynote address from former Gov. Jim Hodges resonated with Stroud.
The Lancaster native told the graduates about the challenges in life that they have yet to face. He said each person must carry a sense of history, family, community, energy and pride.
"How you respond to those challenges will determine how you will be able to achieve," he said. "You have to be more tenacious and more motivated to face those challenges."
Stroud, who wants to be a history teacher, said he has always enjoyed learning about events that happened a long time ago. And if it weren't for family, he doesn't know if he would have had enough encouragement to finally go back to school.
"Having family support, I benefited for sure," said Stroud, who will attend USC in Columbia in the fall.
As Stroud stood by his mother and girlfriend in the lobby of the Bradley Building, fellow USCL graduate Tonya Laney was swarmed with hugs and kisses from parents and other family members.
She said walking across the stage "feels great, like I accomplished a lot."
Like Stroud, she will attend USC in Columbia in the fall. The biology major wants to work as a pediatrician.
Casey Faulkenberry, who will move on to USC Upstate in Spartanburg as a nursing major, said her time at USCL was beneficial. She said the smaller class sizes allowed her to build rapport with her professors.
A smiling Faulkenberry considered the commencement ceremony the perfect end to her USCL experience.
"Out of the two years I've been here, I feel like I got something to show for," she said.
Faulkenberry was among more than 160 students who earned a degree Saturday. About 80 students marched in the ceremony, including some students who finished in August 2007 or December 2007. Students who finished in those earlier semesters have the option of participating in the spring ceremonies since there are no summer or fall graduation ceremonies at USCL.
OTHER NOTES: Adam Baldwin and Jacqueline Wilson were recognized for having the highest average among all graduates – a perfect 4.0. Catherine Catalano, daughter of USCL Dean Dr. John Catalano, was awarded an associate's in science degree, graduating with high honors. USC President Andrew Sorensen spoke during the ceremony. Sorensen, who is retiring later this year, lauded USCL for its continued increase in student enrollment, rise in the number of high-quality faculty and the expansion of intercollegiate sports on campus.
Contact reporter Jesef Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org or (803) 283-1152