BILOXI -- Among more than a thousand graduates of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College were a U.S. Army veteran of two tours in Afghanistan, two Presidential Scholars and perhaps the oldest graduate, a 59-year-old welder.
Anna Brooks, the Army veteran, will probably have the busiest spring of all. Not only did she graduate Thursday evening at the Coast Coliseum, she said she's getting married on Memorial Day, she and her husband-to-be are buying a house and she just learned she's landed a job with the IT Department at Jackson County. The Vancleave native will continue her education under the G.I. Bill at University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Park in Long Beach. She wants to counsel veterans.
"I did IT in the Army," she said. "I love it. I'm excited to start next Friday."
Kimothy Lizana of Lizana was laid off when Ingalls Shipbuilding's Gulfport yard closed. But he soon landed a job as welding instructor at MGCCC's Transition Academy in Long Beach, which gives students the chance to earn their GED and a welding certificate in a 22-week course. Part of that deal, though, was Lizana would have to earn an associate's degree. He did it in a year and a half and now he believes he has a job that will take him to retirement.
"I guess it was the hand of God," he said. "I was going to have knee surgery and when I got over that, this job opened up."
MaKayla Farris of Oceans Springs and Brittney Palode of Pearlington are more-traditional students but the Presidential Scholarships they earned could get them through the next two years of school debt-free.
Farris is going to USM in Hattiesburg in pursuit of an MBA but she's not sure what business she'll try. Palode wants be a veterinarian.
"I'm thinking exotic animals," she said.
This year, 2,157 people are earning 3,589 credentials or degrees, and more than 700 students are projected to graduate with honors distinction.