Parents, children, friends and faculty members filled rows of chairs to watch the graduating class of Newport Business Institute receive their diplomas Sunday afternoon at the Genetti Hotel.
"Somebody put a thought in your head that you can do this," said Hank Mitchell, executive director of the Campbell Street Family Youth and Community Association Inc.
Mitchell served as speaker for the ceremony, telling the graduates that everything happens for a reason. After a leg injury stopped him from playing college football at the University of Alabama, he attended Lycoming College. A professor told him if he continued to ace his classes, he could go to law school, something he never before considered.
Newport Business Institute students mark their graduation Sunday at the Genetti Hotel. See Page A-6 for the story.
"If she thinks I can do it, maybe I can," he said. "You'll get opportunities. Opportunities will come knocking. You gotta be ready to go."
Because someone believed in the graduates, he asked them to turn that belief around to someone else.
"Sow a thought, reap an act," Mitchell said.
If the professor at Lycoming College never inspired him, he never would never have become executive director of the organization, he said.
Kathryn A. Flock, a legal secretarial graduate who completed her studies in March, felt the inspiration to go to college because she wanted her daughter to see there was no reason not to succeed.
"If I put my mind to any test, I can do it and do it well," she said.
While she said some of the graduates were afraid to take chances and fail, they encouraged each other to complete their education.
"We earned a degree we each can be proud of," Flock said.
For John Kiernan, director of the school, the graduation ceremony represented the promises made and kept by the 34 students who graduated between November 2011 and August 2012.
The graduates were a mix of those who attended classes physically and online. Among the associate in specialized business degrees were 11 in business administration, four in legal secretarial and 19 in medical secretarial.
Ren Moyer, of Muncy, who received a degree in medical secretarial, was glad the ceremony was over.
"I can get a move on to something different, new, better," she said.
The skills she learned while completing her degree will make her, and her fellow graduates, more employable.
"No matter how hard it is, you can do it," she said was the skill she learned at school.
It was the encouragement of her parents who believed in her that made her want to go to college.
"They told me I could do it if that's what I really wanted," she said. "I could accomplish it."