Wallace State Celebrates commencement for Class of 2024

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Around 650 graduates participated in graduation ceremonies at Wallace State Community College on Friday, May 10, 2024. (WSCC)

HANCEVILLE, Ala. –  Around 650 graduates participated in graduation ceremonies at Wallace State Community College on Friday, May 10, 2024, at the Traditions Bank Arena inside Tom Drake Coliseum. Around 2,450 degrees and certificates will be awarded to the Class of 2024, including 1,100 in the Spring 2024 semester.

Two ceremonies were held, with the first welcoming more than 320 graduates of the Academic and Applied Technologies programs, followed by the ceremony for Health Science program graduates, with around 325 walking across the stage.

“Graduates, we congratulate you as you conclude this passage of life’s journey and embark on the next,” said Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Karolewics. “Today, we celebrate your success, and we excitedly anticipate tomorrow as we watch your journey continue to unfold.”

“You are the future of our state, the workforce of the future,” Karolewics added. “As you embark on the next chapter of your life, may the education you have earned at Wallace State, one of the top community colleges in the nation, inspire you to be innovative, seek opportunity, and influence your world for the better.”

Presidential Awards of Excellence were presented to three students during the ceremonies.

Kevin Peak was presented with the Presidential Award for Applied Technology Excellence.

Makayla Lindsey was presented with the Presidential Award for Academic Excellence.

 Peyton Rouse was presented with the Presidential Award for Health Science Excellence.

As is tradition at Wallace State commencement ceremonies, stories spotlighting student success are told at each ceremony. Below are excerpts about the students recognized during the ceremonies.

Stephen Amundsen – Welding

Amundsen, 40, of Arab, graduated with an associate degree in Robotics Technology, one of the very first to earn the degree from Wallace State and in Alabama, as it is the first program of its kind in the state. Amundsen quit his full-time job and started taking classes when he was in his late 30s.

A few months after starting classes, he was diagnosed with cancer. Determined not to miss classes, he scheduled treatments around his class times. He has been cancer-free since September.

Cancer has not been Amundsen’s only struggle in life. He experienced an addiction to methamphetamine for 18 years. It was his sister’s death from an overdose that led him to his faith in a higher power and he’s been clean for almost eight years.

Kevin Peak, Mechatronics

Peak was recognized for his leadership and compassionate nature as well as his positive attitude and willingness to learn. As an example of his kindness, Peak volunteered to give rides to and from campus to a classmate whose car had broken down, enabling that student to not miss class.

Peak is following in his father’s footsteps by entering the field of Mechatronics, Electronics and Robotics. His father, who passed away during Peak’s first semester in college, encouraged him to enter the field. Even after his father passed away, Peak only missed one day of class at the time, because he knew that is what his father would have wanted.

Donnanisha Jones, Forensic Investigation

Jones has persevered in the midst of tragedy. She lost two nephews to gun violence and her own two sons thankfully survived gun violence, which truly affected her academic performance. She was able to balance work, family and academic responsibilities to complete a degree in Forensic Investigation, a degree she plans to use to become an advocate for peace and justice.

Vickie Westbrook, Horticulture/Agriculture Production

It took Westbrook 27 years to reach her dream of earning a college diploma, graduating with a degree from Wallace State’s Horticulture/Agriculture Production program, of which she is now a full-time employee.

Westbrook dropped out of school at 16, earned her GED and entered the workforce. She started taking classes to become an accountant, but life happened, and she stopped out of college.

After remarriage, expanding her family and homeschooling her youngest child, Westbrook started college around the same time her daughter did. She entered Wallace State with a new dream of earning a degree to help on the family’s farm, which she has now accomplished.

Kyndall Winters, Salon and Spa Management

As a teenager, Winters had no intention of going to college. On her own at 17, she began working in the fast-food industry and worked her way up to management. At 27, with the encouragement of her husband and family, she decided to enroll at Wallace State to pursue a cosmetology degree, and she has excelled.

Winters recently won a gold medal at the Alabama SkillsUSA competition and will be competing next month in Atlanta at the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference. She is also a recipient of the Applied Technology Award from the Salon and Spa Management program and has maintained a 3.5 GPA.

Anakhita Sultonazarova, Forensic Psychology

Sultonazarova came to the United States from Tajikistan as part of an exchange program when she was a junior in high school and found a home away from home. She discovered a passion for Forensic Psychology while at Wallace State, where she participated in extracurricular activities, served as the president of the International Club and was a member of the Law Enforcement Club and SGA.

She has been accepted to the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City and plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree and work in a field that allows her to impact the lives of others and be an advocate for justice.

Ellanora Slusser, General Studies

Slusser is a high school Fast Track Academy student graduating with a degree in General Studies.

She has been active on campus in numerous clubs and organizations, recently graduated from the Youth Leadership Development Program and is a competitive volleyball and track and field athlete.

In third grade, Slusser was diagnosed with dyslexia. She experienced learning support for her differing ability while at Wallace State, providing her with the necessary support and encouragement to be successful in college. She will transfer to the University of Alabama, where she plans to major in fashion design and retail.

She has been awarded a four-year presidential scholarship and housing scholarship, which together are valued at approximately $55,000, and an additional $10,300 in scholarships through YLDP and other organizations.

Lance Kelly, Radiation Therapy

Kelly chose Radiation Therapy because he has lost two grandparents to cancer and understands the compassion needed for cancer patients who must endure treatments and he felt called to serve them.

Kelly received two scholarships to help fund his education at Wallace State, the WSCC Presidential Scholarship and Alabama Power’s Future Foundation Scholarship. While at Wallace State, he was inducted into the National Society of Leadership and Success and the Alpha Chi Tau Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa. He is a third generation Wallace State Lion. His mother and grandmother both attended Wallace State and became educators.

Jordan Dean, Dental Hygiene

In the face of adversity, Dean never gave up on her goal of obtaining a degree in health care. She dropped out of high school to help her single-parent mom and eventually earned her GED. She started taking college classes with the goal of entering nursing school, but that dream was deferred when she was not accepted.

After taking a break and welcoming a newborn son, she was eventually accepted to a nursing program, but when COVID hit, decided to choose a different career path and applied to Wallace State’s Dental Hygiene program. She was put on a waitlist but was happy to receive the call that a seat had opened up, providing her with the chance to finally fulfill her dream.

Peytan Dill, Occupational Therapy Assistant

Peytan chose to pursue a career in health care after her father suffered a stroke when she was 15 years old. As he made a miraculous recovery, Dill watched the doctors, nurses and therapists as they helped her father relearn or adapt basic tasks of daily living.

While neither she nor her family knew where they would be 10 years later, she is realizing her dream of working in occupational therapy and is ready to give back, to make a difference and honor her father, who watched her graduate.

Lindsay and Drake Pounds

Siblings Lindsay and Drake Pounds went through a lot to get to their graduation ceremony. They lost their parents in a span of one year.

Lindsay, who dropped out of college 10 years ago to care for her parents, graduated with a degree in Medical Laboratory Technician. Drake earned a degree in Graphic Design. Lindsay attributes her success to attentive and caring teachers who demonstrated that her success was their top priority.

Skylar Sloan, Nursing

While Sloan completed more than a few childbirth simulations in the world class simulation center at Wallace State, it was her real-life labor and delivery experience that sparked her interest in Nursing. At the age of 16, Sloan helped deliver her little sister, who was born at home and premature at 27 weeks.

During the 99 days her sister spent in the neonatal intensive care unit, Sloan realized being a neonatal intensive care nurse was what she was meant to be. She will realize that dream next month when she begins working at Brookwood Medical Center.

Ashley Williamson, Respiratory Therapy

Before coming to Wallace, Williamson was enrolled in a Respiratory Therapy program at another school. Four months before she was due to graduate, she experienced failure. She did not let that stop her, however. Meetings with a Wallace State Respiratory Therapy student and faculty member gave her the encouragement to try again.

This time she succeeded, she said, with a lot of hard work and the support of amazing classmates and even better instructors.

Chibueze “Chi” Meremetoh, Nursing

Born in Nigeria before moving to New York when he was 6 years old, Meremetoh had already earned a degree in psychology with a minor in public health before deciding to pursue a nursing degree. As he looked for colleges in the South, he found Wallace State. After a series of bus rides and an Uber from Birmingham to Hanceville, Meremetoh arrived at an information session for the Nursing program four hours late. But he was welcomed by faculty, and quickly became immersed in the program.

As a student at Wallace State, Meremetoh excelled academically and was awarded scholarships for his dedication to his studies and his contributions as a tutor.  Today, he is a nurse, like his mother, and will be working on a medical-surgical unit at UAB.

Richard Came II, Nursing

Came is proof of the power of advertising and how a single moment can change lives. Before spotting a Wallace State billboard on Interstate 65, Came had never heard of the college. But at that time, he was looking for an accredited nursing program and contemplating a move from Montgomery to north Alabama.

He chose nursing as a career while living in Arizona after his grandmother, who lived in New Jersey, fell ill and was placed in a rehabilitation facility. She then came to live with them before passing away. Seeing medical teams care for his grandmother inspired him to pursue a degree in nursing so that he can help people and know he’s made a difference in someone’s life.

To view video of the ceremonies visit www.youtube.com/wallacestate and to view photos visit www.flickr.com/wallacestate