The Voice of Experience
By Master Sgt. Aaron Smith, 102nd Public Affairs
/ Published December 31, 2014
OTIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. -- Hundreds of students from Cape Cod Community College (CCCC) gathered on May 22nd at the Cape Cod Melody Tent in Hyannis, Mass. to take part in the college's 52nd commencement ceremony. Along with CCCC professors and student-leaders, Col Virginia Doonan, 102nd Intelligence Wing Vice Commander, was also on stage to deliver the commencement address.
Despite the grey and rainy weather, the mood at the ceremony was celebratory. Friends and family members filled the circular Melody Tent as students anxiously waited for the ceremony to start, many proudly wearing graduation caps decorated with emblems of their degree-concentration, personal sayings, or mottos.
As the ceremony began, many of the student-speakers and professors acknowledged that CCCC wasn't a traditional large college. Many of the students that attend CCCC aren't straight out of high school, often they are currently working, raising a family, or returning to college after a long break. With seventy-two percent of its spring 2014 semester students being part time, a traditional speech about students going forth and "starting their lives" could have failed to connect.
Fortunately, Col Doonan experiences and speech were well-tailored to the CCCC students. "Like many of you today, I was not a student that entered college directly after high school and began a 4 year journey," Col Doonan admitted. She went on to say that, shortly after enlisting in the Air Force, community colleges were there for her and helped start her on the path towards a degree.
Throughout her speech, Col Doonan pulled on experiences from her 28 years in the military. She urged the graduates to push themselves out of their "comfort-zone", to strive for balance in their lives, and to learn what they could from the Air Force core-values of integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do. After sharing her knowledge and experiences, she also told students to stop and recognize this milestone, saying, "Enjoy this moment of triumph. You earned it! And, take some time over the next few days to truly celebrate your accomplishment and thank those around you that have helped you on this journey. After you've done celebrating, run towards the next goal and strive for excellence!"