Gordon State College Hosts 3rd Annual First-Year Finish Celebration

By Karolina Philmon, GSC Marketing Manager

On Wednesday, April 26, Gordon State College hosted its third annual First-Year Finish celebration at the GSC Student Center Auditorium.

The event honored the freshman class for its perseverance and success during the 2022-2023 academic year. It also recognized the substantial developmental transition of students making it through the first year of college.

As the audience of about 170 students and guests awaited for the event to begin, GSC theatre major from Pike County, Will Pitts accompanied the piano and played a set of classic rock hits.

GSC Lecturer from the School of Education and Applied Sciences, Valerie J. Calhoun opened the celebration with a welcome.

“To be sent an invitation for this event, you had to reach a certain grade point average and a certain academic standard,” Calhoun said. “We are so proud of you and celebrate you today.”

Calhoun then introduced GSC President Dr. Kirk A. Nooks to the podium for his words of wisdom.

“Based on data and research, students who make it to this part of the journey have unlocked a reservoir of power and talent that suggested they’re going to make it,” Nooks said. “By virtue of you sitting in this room, I want you to understand that you’ve made a decision to forgo the odds that were likely stacked against you.”

President Nooks continued his speech by reflecting on the recent passing of notable musician, Harry Belafonte and his connection and friendship to Martin Luther King Jr.

“He [Harry Belafonte] didn’t want to put the King on a pedestal because he wanted everyone to understand that you have the same opportunity to change this world, just like King did,” Nooks said.

President Nooks recalled from one of Belafonte’s documentaries that he made it clear King had his share of “highs and lows like everyone else” and that anyone “should be able to identify with him.”

On an ending note, President Nooks said there will be challenges for the students in the years ahead, but the question will be on how one will move forward from those challenges.

“Are you going to give up or are you going to say we move forward like Highlanders do,” Nooks said. “Listen to that authentic voice that’s in your spirit and you’ll break the barriers to become what you want to become to contribute to this society.”

Pitts took the stage at the piano after President Nooks’ speech with his friend, who played the bass guitar, and they performed Billy Joel’s 1977 hit single, “Vienna.”

Presentation of certificates by school followed with Dr. Barry Kicklighter with the School of Business, Liberal Arts, and Social Sciences; Dr. Stephen A Raynie with the School of Education, Math, and Applied Sciences; and Dr. Victor Vilchiz with the School of Nursing, Health, and Natural Sciences.

Mary Monroe Smith, GSC ‘22-‘23 student government association president took the podium after certificates were presented and shared words of encouragement on keeping on the course while GSC Provost and Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Dr. J. Ardovini talked of The Highlander EDGE- Engaged Leaders, Dedicated Scholars, Gifted Communicators and Ethical Leaders.

Calhoun wrapped it up with a few closing statements.

A reception followed the celebration. Students and their families took pictures with Dr. Nooks, their deans and faculty members.