GBCC graduates 250 during 68th commencement ceremony

05/18/2014 by Suzanne Laurent

PORTSMOUTH — The Class of 2014 speaker for Great Bay Community College's 68th commencement ceremony Saturday morning embodied the very qualities of the many students at the college who have turned their lives around and succeed by just being pointed in the right direction.

"I was the obnoxious, loud theater kid in high school," said Natalie Landry, who had just received the President's Award for Student Leadership from GBCC President Wildolfo Arvelo during ceremonies at GBCC's campus at Pease International Tradeport. 

After several attempts at starting college and not feeling any "passion" for what she was doing, Landry said she "randomly made a decision to attend Great Bay."

After being inspired by professors and mentors in the teacher preparation program, whom Landry called her "supporting cast" during her journey, she served as president of the Student Government Association and sat on the College Advisory Board and College Coordinating Counsel. She also spearheaded a number of projects including the new Student Success Center project and an initiative to provide free interview apparel for students.

"I'm a whole book of failures and successes," she said.

Landry then broke out into singing a line from the Journey song, "Don't Stop Believin'."

"Today marks the end of the book you put your hearts and souls into writing," she told her fellow graduates. "But your next story is waiting. Get to writing it."

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., was the commencement speaker. "What you have all demonstrated is that learning is the key to success in today's economy," Shaheen told the graduates. "This economy has changed dramatically in the last few decades."

Shaheen said it's now a global economy, and New Hampshire is competing with businesses from around the world.

"And this global economy, despite its challenges, opens up new opportunities," she said. "New Hampshire has been doing very well in that we've been a leader in exports."

Shaheen said she remains optimistic in a changing economy that has created a lot of turbulence and uncertainty. "As long as we continue to invest in our future here in America in education — in research, innovation and development — we will be successful."

She added the new graduates will have the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in this new economy. "You've also learned how to adapt to changing circumstances and conditions," she said.

This year marked the first graduation of students from GBCC's new six-month advanced composites manufacturing program. The ACM program, housed at the college's Advanced Technology & Academic Center in Rochester, has gained national recognition for directly responding to employers' hiring needs in the manufacturing sector.

The ACM certificate was designed specifically to train composites manufacturing technicians and operators to meet the workforce needs of area manufacturers. Among those manufacturers are Albany Engineered Composites and Safran Aerospace Composites, which recently co-located to expanded facilities in Rochester.

One graduate of the ACM program Saturday was Kerri Lyn Uyeno of New Durham. She said she now has her "dream job" with Safran, which hired her for a position as a bonding operator. A single mother of three sons, Uyeno has been waitressing and doing temporary manufacturing work since graduating from high school in 1991.

Another ACM program student, Julie Lapierre of Rochester, secured a position as a teacher's aide at the Advanced Technology & Academic Center. "I was laid off five times in four years," Lapierre said. She found out about the new ACM through GBCC's Work Ready NH program.

Programs with the largest number of students graduating Saturday were nursing, veterinary technology and liberal arts.

At a glance Awards presented at Great Bay Community College's 2014 commencement.

Teaching Excellence: Meg Prescott, associate professor and program coordinator for computer technologies program.

Service Excellence: Debra Lancaster, assistant registrar and military and veteran liaison for GBCC.

President's Award for Outstanding Adjunct: Bette Reith, adjunct faculty in the math department.

President's Award for Student Leadership: Natalie Landry, graduate of the teacher preparation program.