Lakewood Ranch Herald

Song sets tone for MCC grads

PALMETTO — Music director Melodie Dickerson’s spirited MCC Chamber Choir set the tone for Friday’s Manatee Community College winter commencement by giving the National Anthem a surprising touch of originality and creativity.

And the speakers who followed — including MCC President Dr. Lars A. Hafner and keynote speaker Dr. Arthur Guilford, vice president and campus executive officer, University of South Florida Sarasota Manatee — seemed to reinforce those two qualities, advising graduates to embrace creatively, to purposely get into situations to be inspired, to take some mental leaps and to expect to stumble.

“I challenge you to open your mind to every person you meet because everyone you meet can give you inspiration,” said Guilford, who toiled 30 years with USF in Tampa before getting his chance to come to USF’s Manatee-Sarasota campus.

Guilford wanted the graduates to know that they should be thinking 24/7 how they can change the world with originality and creativity.

He even pointed out that each day has 86,400 seconds and, once used up for purposes other than inspiration, can’t be reclaimed.

Making mistakes and stumbling is part of reaching the goal of using those seconds the most wisely, he said.

“Michael Jordan, the basketball great,” missed 9,000 shots in his career,” Guilford said. “There were 26 times where he failed to make the winning shot. He once said, ‘I failed over and over in my life and that’s why I succeeded.’ “

This was Hafner’s first graduation after becoming president July 1. His first gesture was to honor the families and teachers of the 183 graduates who participated in the ceremony at the Manatee Convention and Civic Center.

“Teachers affect eternity,” Hafner said.

One of the interesting facets of a graduation is that some graduates meet each other for the first time moments before they graduate, as they help each other get ready for the big moment as they get acquainted.

Such was the case for Amanda Gerardino, Tiki Mays and Jhana Martinez who became friends while waiting to get their diplomas.

Gerardino plans to be a children’s therapist. Mays wants to be a radiologist and Martinez hopes to be an accountant.

“I remember I was nervous about college, but every single teacher I had was great and helped me,” Gerardino said.

Mays, who graduated from Manatee High in 1992, fought through adversity, including a car accident in 2006, to make it to graduation.

Cheering her on in the audience were her children, Martika, 17, Cedrick, 12, and Dominique, 7.

Martinez is one of about 1,000 recipients of the Bill Gates’ Millenium scholarship and is on her way to University of South Florida-Sarasota.


Number of Graduates: 183

Speakers: Dr. Lars A. Hafner and Dr. Arthur Guilford

Shining Moment: Graduate Veronica Graterol getting a hug from her proud parents, Carlos and Irania Graterol. Veronica wants to be an international businesswoman. “She’s proud of what she’s accomplished,” Carlos Graterol said. Said Irania of her beaming daughter, “She’s vivacious!”

Best quote: “I pray that in your lifetimes the human family might live in peace.” — The Rev. Dr. James Williamson, chaplain, Campus Ministries.

Interesting sight: The determination on the face of 62-year-old George Anna Russell, who graduated with a degree in criminal justice.

Russell didn’t get her high school equivalency degree until she was 42 and it took her six years to graduate from MCC.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 708-7917.