The ceremony began with a welcome message from special guest Chris Harrison, a TV host best known for his role hosting "The Bachelor."
"This has been the most dramatic semester ever and now we're having the most dramatic graduation ever," Harrison said. "Look in all seriousness, you guys are a shining example of what's good about what's going on right now. Yes, we're all quarantined, we're battling the coronavirus, everybody's being vigilant, being smart and doing things like virtual graduations.
"But you guys are an example of what's ahead," Harrison said. "There's light at the end of the tunnel and it's people like you who are going to go on, take this education and do great things and have tremendous success. We'll look back on this as a crazy time in our lives but as a time maybe when we took stock of our lives and made some good changes. Congratulations, good luck to each and every one of you and God bless. 'There's No Place like Holmes.'"
Following Harrison's address, a video slideshow showcased student activities from the past year, spanning across all campuses. After the slideshow, Holmes President Dr. Jim Haffey addressed the graduates.
"Hello graduates," Dr. Haffey said. "On behalf of the faculty, the staff, the Administration and the Board of Holmes Community College, let me just say a big congratulations. And it is disappointing not to get to tell you that in person because seeing your smiling faces is the highlight of the year for all of us. But that does not diminish your accomplishment. In fact, it reiterates how strong, how tough, how determined you are.
"So, I encourage you not to let this pandemic get you down," Dr. Haffey said. "Look at it as a blessing that you made it through this. You will probably not face tougher times in the near future. So, you're armed with that diploma from Holmes Community College; that proves that you're able to go on and do great things, persevere. So, we're with you as you move on. We're going to miss you, miss seeing you every day, but we expect you to come back and be part of the Holmes family. There really is 'No Place like Holmes.' Congratulations and take care."
After Dr. Haffey's address, Automotive Technology Instructor Derrick Rainey gave the invocation before Business and Office Technology Instructor Katrina B. Myricks spoke to students.
"To the graduating class of 2020, let me begin by saying congratulations," Myricks said. "Despite the situation going on around us you have persevered. The papers are finished, the tests have been taken and now you are a graduate of Holmes Community College. You have closed this chapter of your life and after today, have begun to write a new one. Some of you may be excited and hopeful while others are scared and unsure about your future. One thing is for sure, it is now time for you to stand up and say to the world 'Here I am!' I can take what you have to offer because I have met and defeated the challenges of Holmes to earn my degree or certificate.
"Today I am looking at students who have worked hard not only in the classroom, but in your personal lives as well. Today we are acknowledging that you are special and you are telling the world to sit up and take notice. You must hold a positive vision of what you want to achieve, come up with a plan, prepare to make it real and be patient while it happens. As we all know, success is a journey, not a destination. As you head into the future, may God help you to use your gifts, live with integrity, be genuine, believe in yourself and always do your best. Congratulations Class of 2020!"
Next, Academic Counselor Cynthia Abel spoke the graduating students.
"I'm so happy to share in your excitement on your graduation day," Abel said. 'Each of you have worked extremely hard and devoted yourselves to succeed in your chosen pathway. As you embark on your future, whether you're going straight into the workforce or transferring to a four-year university, please remember everything that you've learned at Holmes to help you accomplish your future goals. We are so proud of each and every one of you for striving for excellence, stepping up to the plate and most of all, never giving up.
"In the words of the great B.B. King, 'The beautiful thing about learning is no one can take it from you.' So, continue to grow academically, professionally and personally. What you have accomplished is 100 percent yours and no one can ever take that from you. You worked for it, you earned it and now you own it."
Following Myricks' address, the "Voice of the Bulldogs" Josh West read the "marching graduates' names one by one. Each student's name and degree program appeared on the screen as their name was read, and the valedictorians and salutatorians were recognized, as well. After the marching graduates were recognized, the names of non-marching graduates were shown on screen, as well.
This year, there were 12 valedictorians, all who had a perfect 4.0 GPA, and four salutatorians, all with a 3.96 GPA. The valedictorians included pre-nursing major Mary Clayton Burrell of Sallis; welding & cutting technology major Bradley Joshua Cooper of Stewart; heating/ac/vent/ref major Ethan M. Hancock of Canton; accounting major David Blake Humphreys of Yazoo City; heating/ac/vent/ref major William B. Mordecai of Carthage; drafting & design technology major Michael Wesley Petermann of Carrollton; elementary education major Hannah G. Reeves of Brandon; engineering/chem/bio/petro major Bruce E. Ruschewski of Benton; pre-med major Addison Leslie Stevens of Madison; heating/ac/vent/ref major Trontavius D. Townes of Coffeeville; cosmetology major Riley J. Tucker of Bentonia and cosmetology major Emily Julieta Valdes of Canton.
The salutatorians were elementary education major Caseigh Hickman of Florence; psychology major Anna M. King of Senatobia; exercise science/kinesiology major Peyton Taylor Montgomery of Coldwater and chemistry major Aurora Celeste Sant'Angelo of Jackson.
Following the presentation of graduates, Recruiting Specialist/Ambassador Sponsor Leslie Taylor Spell and school mascot Major the Bulldog made an appearance to wish the Class of 2020 well.
"Major and I wanted to congratulate you, Class of 2020, on your major accomplishment," Spell said. "You have come a long way and we are proud of you. If you have not done so already, I would like to encourage you to join our Alumni Association and stay connected with us. Come back and visit often; we want to hear all about your future successes because your success is our success. Major wanted me to remind you that once a Bulldog, always a Bulldog and there truly is 'No Place like Holmes.'"
Finally, to conclude the virtual ceremony, singer Ne-Yo appeared as another special guest speaker.
"I wanted to take this opportunity and say to the graduates of Holmes Community College, first and foremost, congratulations," Ne-Yo said. "As you go off into the world with the newfound skills you gained here at Holmes, I hope you make your dreams come true and I hope you do your part to make this world a better place. Again, congratulations, farewell and go make the world better. No Place like Holmes. It's Ne-Yo. Peace and love."
Those who want more information about joining the Alumni Association, graduates may contact Katherine Ellard at firstname.lastname@example.org or (662) 472-9134.
If you missed today's commencement, you can go to the events.holmescc.edu to watch it.
For more information on Holmes Community College, visit www.holmescc.edu.