By Jane Hammond
Carrie Donna Ogle waited a long time for Thursday night.
After five schools, 17 years and a lot of hard work, she graduated from Thomas Nelson Community College with an associate degree in business administration.
"My inspiration was my kids, my husband, my family, friends," Ogle, 35, said. "I couldn't have done it without a lot of friends helping me watch me kids."
Ogle was one of approximately 1,200 to graduate from TNCC Thursday at the Hampton Coliseum. Eleven others graduated from the Middle College program, a GED program for 18- to 24-year-olds.
Nehemiah Hughes is a product of Middle College, and said it prepared him to better himself with an education. He went on to finish his time at TNCC Thursday with an associate degree in computer science.
"I worked for that title right here," Hughes, 23, said, holding up a slip of paper indicating his status as summa cum laude, meaning he graduated with the highest honors. "It's been a long way, but I made it."
Former Daily Press Media Group CEO and Publisher Digby A. Solomon delivered the night's address, and cautioned that graduation was not the end of the road.
"Take pride in your considerable achievements, the fruits of hard work and dedication on your part and that of your professors at Thomas Nelson," Solomon said. "But now that we've acknowledged that success, I need to warn you. The hard work is not over. In fact, it will continue the rest of your life.
"Your mission in life, one I hope you will embrace with enthusiasm and optimism, is to never stop working and never stop changing," he said. "Nothing less will be be required if you are to succeed in a world that will always be rapidly evolving in ways we cannot predict."
Jairo Colón graduated Thursday night with his associate of science degree, and plans to further his education with a bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree in his pursuit of becoming a doctor.
"I was home schooled, so it provided a nice transition for me so that I had a better experience. There was not as big of a change. It provided me to build relationships with my friends here in student government," Colón said, gesturing to the friends with whom he'd been taking pictures. "It just allowed me to grow and get to know people."