May 08, 2021 | Featured , Academics , Student Success

Spring 2021 Drive-Through Commencement Ceremony

Grad student collage

Columbia State celebrated 582 Spring 2021 graduates during a drive-through style commencement ceremony Saturday, May 8.

“Today is a celebration of accomplishments,” said Dr. Janet F. Smith, Columbia State president. “I, along with the faculty and staff, could not be more proud of this group and all they have achieved.”

In lieu of a traditional ceremony, students walked across the stage at the Circular Commons while their families observed from their vehicles at the fountain.

“Our ceremony might look different due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the celebration and excitement for these graduates remains the same,” Smith said. 

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Chapel Hill resident Ashley Neill earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in respiratory care. During her time at Columbia State, the Tennessee Reconnect graduate was a member of Lambda Beta Honors Society, and was the recipient of the 2020-2021 Respiratory Care Academic Discipline Award. Neill is one of many in her family to graduate from Columbia State as her brother, William Meacham; sister, Kara Russell; and mother, Cynthia Meacham are all Columbia State alumni. Neill said she chose Columbia State because she knew her education would be top-notch. She noted, “In the midst of a pandemic, I watched our instructors push for us to be able to continue our education and push for us to be able to finish on time. It was wonderful to see that even though they were unsure as to how bad this virus was, they wanted to still provide us with the best education possible.”

 

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Lakeville, Pennsylvania resident Kristen Reish earned a university parallel Associate of Science degree. She is a President’s Leadership Society and Tennessee Reconnect graduate. During her time at Columbia State, Reish was a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Sigma Kappa Delta National English Honor Society, the Student Government Association, the All-Tennessee Academic Team and the Student Veterans Organization. Reish was also the SVO vice president and attended two SVO national  conferences. “Columbia State gave me a chance to leap and succeed or fail without fear of repercussions,” Reish said. In the future, she plans to continue her education and study international affairs or pre-law.

 

Columbia State Student

Manchester resident Darius Rozier earned a university parallel Associate of Science Degree. During his time at Columbia State, Rozier played basketball for the Columbia State Chargers as a forward. Rozier earned a 2020-2021 TCCAA All-Academic Athletics Men's Basketball Award.

 

Columbia State grad
Columbia resident Rachel O’Guin earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in veterinary technology. O’Guin is a President’s Leadership Society graduate and was a member of Sigma Kappa Delta National English Honor Society. O’Guin is a first-generation student and said that Columbia State opened up opportunities that, at one time, she thought weren’t available to her. “Columbia State prepared me for the future by helping me to develop the skills and confidence needed to achieve my goals,” O’Guin said. Following graduation, O’Guin plans to enter the workforce as veterinary nurse. 

 

Columbia State student
Franklin resident Chase McGee earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in respiratory care. He said that he chose Columbia State because of the location and the academics. “Columbia State prepared me by providing great training and instructors,” McGee said. Following graduation, McGee will be entering the workforce at Vanderbilt’s Children’s Hospital. 

 

Columbia State Student
Nolensville resident Alexandria Lahman earned a university parallel Associate of Science degree. Lahman is a President’s Leadership Society and Tennessee Promise graduate. During her time at Columbia State, she was the treasurer for Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and was a member of Sigma Kappa Delta National English Honor Society and the Archery Club. Lahman was a nominee for the Carolyn Allred/Lewis Moore Outstanding Student Award. Lahman plans to further her education at Western Kentucky University.

 

Columbia State student
Franklin resident Delaney Porter earned a university parallel Associate of Science degree with an emphasis in pre-physical therapy. Porter, a Tennessee Promise graduate, played softball for the Lady Chargers and received TCCAA All-Academic Awards in 2020 and 2021. Porter plans to continue her education at a four-year institution. Long-term, she plans to earn a doctorate in physical therapy.

 

Columbia State grad
Chapel Hill resident Pilar Garcia earned a university parallel Associate of Arts degree. Garcia is a Tennessee Promise graduate. They were a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Sigma Kappa Delta National English Honor Society, PRISM, and they served as a Peer Leader. In addition, Garcia was the recipient of the 2020-2021 English Academic Discipline Award. Garcia plans to continue their education at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville where they will pursue a bachelor’s degree in English. Garcia said that Columbia State prepared them for the future by “giving them access to essential resources that they could take advantage of, including the tutoring center and various events that kept them engaged.”

 

Columbia State student
Shelbyville resident Denna Castro earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in business. During her time at Columbia State, the Tennessee Reconnect graduate was a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and Sigma Kappa Delta National English Honor Society. Castro decided to attend Columbia State with her daughter, Jana Castro, who graduated from Columbia State in 2020. “We thought it would be fun to take this journey together,” Castro said. “At 51 years old and just wanting the skills to start my own business, Columbia State has prepared me with the knowledge and educational background that I needed.” 

 

DE graduate
Fairview resident Kenier Gimenez earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in engineering systems technology. Gimenez, a first-generation student, was dual enrolled at Fairview High School. Gimenez said that his favorite part about the dual enrollment program was the comradery built between the students and how they all held each other accountable. Following graduation, Gimenez plans to continue his education at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga to pursue a degree in architecture.Caption

 

Columbia State student

 Columbia resident Reece Scott earned a university parallel Associate of Science Degree. Scott is  an Ontario, Canada native. During her time at Columbia State, Scott played soccer for the Columbia State Lady Chargers as the fullback/centerback.

 

Columbia State grad
Lawrenceburg resident Addie Smith earned a university parallel Associate of Science degree. Smith is a Tennessee Promise graduate and is a second-generation Columbia State student following her mother, Terra Smith. Smith was a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. During her time at Columbia State, Smith was a student worker for the Lawrence Campus computer lab. Smith plans to continue her education at Middle Tennessee State University in the fall to pursue a degree in early childhood education.

 

Columbia State grad
Columbia resident Chloe Etherington earned a university parallel Associate of Science degree. Etherington a Wallasey, England native, chose Columbia State because she wanted to choose a college that would allow her to excel in both academics and soccer. “I really enjoyed my classes,” Etherington said. “In regards to soccer, I am part of such a strong and successful team that is going to make it easier to transfer to the Division I level to play.” During her time at Columbia State, Etherington received a 2019-2020 NJCAA All-Academic,  Second Team. Etherington plans to continue her education at Mississippi Valley State University.

 

Columbia State grad
Columbia resident Benjamin Martin earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in nursing. Martin is a Tennessee Reconnect graduate. Martin is the second in his family to attend Columbia State as his sister, Delany Martin, is an alumna. Martin said that Columbia State prepared him for his future by providing a lot of clinical experience. “Columbia State provides a ton of different learning opportunities. I know my degree from Columbia State is highly valued and desired.” Following graduation, Martin plans to enter a residency program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. 

 

Columbia State grad

Pulaski resident Ava Brittain earned a university parallel Associate of Science degree. During her time at Columbia State, Brittain was a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and served as PTK vice president of fellowship. Brittain is the recipient of the 2020-2021 Carolyn Allred/Lewis Moore Outstanding Student Award and the 2020-2021 Introduction to Biology Research Academic Discipline Award. 

  

Columbia State grad
Pictured (left to right): Shane Elkins, Leanne Elkins and Ryley Elkins. Franklin resident Leanne Elkins earned a university parallel Associate of Science degree. Elkins is a Tennessee Reconnect graduate. During her time at Columbia State, Elkins was a member of the Student Government Association. Following graduation, Elkins plans to continue her education at Middle Tennessee State University. “My time at Columbia State has been such a rich experience,” Elkins said. 

 

Not Pictured (Photo not available): Brentwood resident Patrićyonna Rodgers earned an Associate of Arts degree in mass communication. Rodgers is a President’s Leadership Society and Tennessee Promise graduate. While at Columbia State, Rodgers was a member of the Media Club and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Rodgers served as president of the Student Government Association and as senator of the Williamson Campus. In addition, she was the recipient of the 2020-2021 Mass Communication Academic Discipline Award. Rodgers plans to continue her education at Middle Tennessee State University. Rodgers said that Columbia State was her choice because it was a school that focused on the well-being of its students.

Not Pictured (Photo not available): Prospect resident Zarina Gurley earned a university parallel Associate of Science degree. Gurley is a President’s Leadership Society and Tennessee Promise graduate. During her time at Columbia State, Gurley served as a Peer Leader. Before coming to Columbia State Gurley was homeschooled. “Columbia State really helped acclimate me to a ‘real’ school setting both online and in-person,” Gurley said. “At the Lawrence Campus, it felt like a close community where everyone wants to see you succeed and help you reach your goals.” Gurley plans to continue her education at Southern Adventist University. Eventually, she wants to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.