A-B Tech Community College will award approximately 1,000 degrees and diplomas to graduates this year during the college’s 2022 Commencement ceremony at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 14 at Harrah’s Cherokee Center in Asheville.
A-B Tech President John Gossett, who joined the college in July 2020, will preside over his first in-person commencement and deliver the keynote address. The college did not have a commencement ceremony in 2020 and held a virtual event in 2021.
Gossett said the 2022 class endured the pandemic. “They came to us in faith as we had to quickly pivot to fully online instruction back in March 2020,” he said. “We all learned to accept and extend grace to each other as we struggled together. They hung in there with us, wearing masks and taking safety precautions on campus, or taking virtual classes in pajamas with their families and pets sharing screen time.
“We all learned things about ourselves that will serve us well in the coming years. We know that these 2022 graduates are resilient.”
SGA President Bethany Duke, who is graduating from A-B Tech with a degree in Accounting and Finance, echoed Gossett’s sentiments. “I, as many others, was overwhelmed at the beginning and middle of the pandemic,” she said. “A-B Tech once again came to save the day. Leniencies were put into place for those that contracted COVID-19. A-B Tech also assisted the students financially through the Trailblazer Promise and HERF Grant distributions. That took such a weight off of my shoulders. Finances will probably always be an obstacle for students, but A-B Tech alleviated that burden as much as possible.”
Duke, who earned an associate degree last year in Human Resource Management, finds finishing bittersweet. “When I walk across the stage, I will hold my head up high and do my best not to cry,” she said. “A-B Tech has become so dear to me. Everything this college is and stands for is uplifting. I cannot express how deeply grateful I will forever be to have been accepted into the fold all those years ago. I am and always will be proud to be a Trailblazer.”
A-B Tech has six academic divisions that award degrees and diplomas. Following is a breakdown of how many students are graduating from each division:
· Academic Success and Public Service - 35
· Allied Health-250
· Arts and Sciences – 392
· Business & Hospitality Education - 194
· Emergency Services – 18
· Engineering and Applied Technology -110
Among the graduates is Dedrick McFadden, who earned a Brewing, Distillation, and Fermentation AAS degree from A-B Tech’s Craft Beverage Institute of the Southeast. After a stint in the U.S. Army, he came to A-B Tech seeking a career change and was able to use the GI Bill to pay for his education.
“I had to decide what I wanted to do next and began homebrewing,” he said. “I knew I wanted to get into the brewing industry.”
At the Craft Beverage Institute, McFadden could immediately start applying and develop what he already knew. “A degree in brewing really shows that you put in the effort. You know what you are talking about and you can use what you learn right now, said McFadden, who interned at Sierra Nevada Brewing.
In Madison County, Brianna Mace (pictured) will receive an associate degree from A-B Tech before she graduates high school. As a Madison County Early College student, she was able to take combine her high school courses with classes at A-B Tech. This allowed Mace to finish high school and earn a two-year degree in five years. “Early College made sense to me,” she said. “With two years of free college, why would you do anything else?”
Mace also is taking Nurse Aide I classes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings so she can start in A-B Tech’s RIBN Nursing program in partnership with Western Carolina University. Her ultimate goal is to be a Nurse Practitioner. “I knew since the ninth grade that I wanted to be in the medical field,” she said. “I thought about becoming a doctor, but the nurse option was better for me. I was always the person with the first aid kit and knew how to use it, and the one who always needed the first aid kit.”
Benjamin Bashinski, an Aviation graduate, is already teaching flight at WNC Aviation and has a job waiting for him with a passenger airline once he earns enough flight time. “It was a split experience for me,” he said. “When I started everything was in person, then everything was online. It was a great program for me. I was able to use my GI Bill benefits.”