Better late than never: 2020 grads join 2021 WVNCC Commencement

CEREMONY — Paulayna Zias, a 2020 graduate of West Virginia Northern Community College, addresses the WVNCC graduation ceremony Friday night. Many 2020 graduates returned to join 2021 graduates for the ceremony. -- Joselyn King

WHEELING — West Virginia Northern Community College celebrated both 2021 and 2020 graduates during ceremonies Friday night at Wheeling Island Stadium.

The 2021 class included 312 graduates receiving certificates and degrees. Last year, 290 students in the Class of 2020 did not have a ceremony due to the COVID pandemic, and they were invited to participate in this year’s event.

The 49th WVNCC commencement ceremonies took place outdoors at Wheeling Island Stadium because of the increased number of participants.

“We were heartbroken last year when the pandemic forced us to postpone our commencement ceremony,” WVNCC President Daniel Mosser said. “We are delighted that some of our 2020 graduates are joining us tonight. It’s a celebration that’s long overdue.”

He told them they would always be part of the WVNCC family, and hopefully consider themselves “proud Thundering Chickens.”

Dave Artman, chair of the WVNCC board of governors, provided statistics about the combined classes of 2021 and 2020.

He said the youngest among the graduates was just 18 years old, while the oldest was age 66.

The commencement speaker was Wheeling City Council member Rosemary Ketchum, a 2017 WVNCC graduate.

“The most important thing education can give us is the ability to think critically, and question everything,” she told the graduates.

Ketchum cautioned them they do not have to be perfect all the time, or please everyone. She told the graduates when she first came to Wheeling from Ohio to attend WVNCC, the only college campuses she had seen had been those on television.

She said she was so unsure of herself as a transgender person she wore a large straw hat while on campus so she wouldn’t have to engage with anyone.

“I had no idea of what to expect, or what to do,” Ketchum said. “Then I decided I have nothing to lose.”

She said she joined every board and commission “that would have me,” but nothing prepared her for the position she holds now more than her time as the student representative on the WVNCC Board of Governors.

“For the first time, I had a seat at the table,” Ketchum said. “This awkward, hat-wearing, psych major weirdo finally had some power. And that was scary.”

Gabriela Tournay of Weirton was introduced as the valedictorian of the Class of 2021. She graduated with an associate of applied science degree in nursing. She started her career in the Intermediate Care Unit at Weirton Medical Center.

The 2020 valedictorian was Paulayna Zias, also of Weirton. She earned an associate of applied science degree in business administration/business studies, and nationally certified as a pharmacy technician. She is employed by the New Cumberland Prescription Center, where she is general manager of all three pharmacies in the company.


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