Phi Theta Kappa CEO Speaks to SCC graduates on Importance of Completion

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Jackson, MS – Dr. Rod Risley, Executive Director and CEO of Phi Theta Kappa, was the keynote speaker at St. Charles Community College in Missouri during its 25th annual commencement on May 18, which celebrated the accomplishments of more than 840 graduates of the class of 2013.

Dedicated Alpha Xi Chi Chapter Advisors Christy Gant, Ron Pettus, and Brenda Hallrah celebrate Commencement Day with Dr. Risley at St. Charles Community College.

On Friday, May 17, he attended a reception held at St. Charles Community College with President Ron Chesbrough, Phi Theta Kappa members and advisors, along with other members and advisors from across the state.

The next morning Dr. Risley arrived to a standing room only crowd at commencement, where he congratulated SCC students for completing a degree and talked about the importance of college completion.

“You should be so proud that you chose to attend St. Charles Community College – a college with instructors whose mission in life is to teach, and a college with programs that will give you the competitive edge whether entering the workforce or transferring to a senior college,” he said. “Be proud of your decision to attend St. Charles Community College because you obtained this quality education at one third of the cost compared to those who attended only a public senior college and thousands of dollars less than those who attended only a selective college.” 

Dr. Risley also quoted Harriet Tubman, who led hundreds of slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad, “When I found I had crossed the line, I looked at my hands to see if I were the same person.  There was glory over everything.” He finished by telling students, “Embrace Tubman’s glorious moment as yours because you share with her strong character, courage and the determination necessary to succeed.  Today for each of you, anything is possible. The only thing that could possibly hold you back … is you.”

In 2010 Dr. Risley, along with CEOs from the five leading national organizations in the community college arena, made history by collectively signing an agreement, “Democracy’s Colleges: A Call to Action,” committing to increase the number of community college students completing a degree or credential by 5 million by 2020.

Also addressing a crowd of nearly 1,500 graduates, faculty, relatives and friends was student representative Kimberly Sorden, an Associate of Arts degree graduate and member of Phi Theta Kappa. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing at the University of Central Florida. Sorden chose to attend SCC after an accident on a four-wheeler and complications from her first surgery left her unable to walk for seven months. She hopes to someday work as a nurse, to pursue a doctorate and eventually travel the world educating people about health.

Sorden told students the three lessons she learned in overcoming her own obstacles, “Believe in yourself in order to accomplish your goals. It’s only hard to succeed when you do not try,” she said. “You are never too old to learn.”

“We learn something new every day, no matter if it is big or small,” Sorden said. “Knowledge is power and nothing can ever take that away from you.”

Read more about the St. Charles Community College commencement in local news coverage.