Mark and Abigail Long, a father-daughter pair, graduate Wallace State together

Mark and Abigail Long graduated from Wallace State on Friday night.

HANCEVILLE, Ala. –  Mark and Abigail Long circled this week for nearly a year.

Both father and daughter graduated together from Wallace State on Friday night as the college celebrated its 53rd commencement.

Mark Long, 44, earned a degree in Mechatronics, while Abigail, 17, graduated as a product of Wallace State’s Fast Track program with a degree in paralegal studies. 

“We had an idea last summer that there was a chance for us to graduate together this year, and I made sure to make it happen. I appreciate (Mechatronics) instructor Keith Tolbert. He was very instrumental in making sure I was on the right path to graduate with my daughter,” Mark Long said.

Mark, who works full-time at Royal Technologies in Cullman, has 26 years of manufacturing work under his belt. In 2017, he wanted to gain more knowledge in programmable logic controllers or PLC’s, and with cooperation from Royal Technologies enrolled in Wallace State’s Mechatronics Department.

Because he’s now completed the Mechatronics program, Mark has transitioned from a production manager to a manufacturing engineer within the manufacturing department, working to improve projects and processes at Royal Technologies.

“I wanted to better myself in the workforce. It would have been much more difficult to advance without earning this degree and the skills I’ve learned in the process,” Mark Long said. “I’ve definitely bettered myself over the past two years.”

Abigail Long graduated from Wallace State with her dad – even before she graduates Hanceville High School. More so, she graduated Wallace State as a 17 year old on Friday and Hanceville High as an 18 year old on May 18, enjoying a birthday in between the ceremonies.

“It’s so exciting to graduate with my dad. I’m very proud of him. We weren’t sure it would happen because of his full-time job, but it’s special. It’s something I’ll always remember,” Abigail said.

Abigail was a rising star in Wallace State’s Fast Track for Industry Academy, being voted on as the Fast Track for Industry Student of the Year. The Fast Track Academy allows high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to simultaneously earn their high school and college degrees, meeting state requirements for high school graduation while also providing the general education requirements for the certificate and associate degree programs at Wallace State. Students are also allowed to participate in their high school’s extracurricular activities, including athletics, band and student organizations.

Abigail maintained a 4.0 GPA through her collegiate studies and plans to transfer to the University of Tennessee in the fall. She’ll major in pre-law at Tennessee and serve as a majorette for the Vols after doing so at Hanceville. Abigail has plans to eventually apply to law school.

“Fast Track allowed me to gain a sense of independence, and I’m grateful for that. I’m held accountable for my work on a different level than many of my peers. I feel confident going to the University of Tennessee and living on my own four hours away because of the confidence I’ve gained through our Fast Track program,” Abigail Long said.

Mark Long is appreciative of the opportunities his daughter earned through the Fast Track program.

“I’m proud of Abigail beyond words. She’s always been driven, self-motivated kid. She’s been able to accomplish so much even before she gets out of high school. It’s a major accomplishment and we recognize that,” Mark Long said. “The Fast Track program is a great program. I’m thankful the Cullman County School System and Wallace State have teamed up to offer self-driven students the opportunity to excel. It’s been a blessing to our family.”

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Abigail Long, a Fast Track for Industry student at Wallace State, received her degree in paralegal studies on Friday night.

Mark Long prepares to receive his diploma from Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Karolewics on Friday night.