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Graduates celebrate their achievements at organization ceremonies

University leaders are celebrating with the soon-to-be graduates at smaller graduations hosted by campus groups.

A student smiles during a graduation ceremony.
American Indian Center Commencement Ceremony held at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. May 9, 2019. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

In the days leading to Spring Commencement on May 12, graduating students from across the University are celebrating the completion of their studies with community-based ceremonies.

The celebrations began on May 3 with a ceremony highlighting the accomplishments of first-generation master’s and doctoral students with Carolina Grad Students F1RSTS. Later that weekend, the Lavender Graduation celebrated the achievements of LGBTQIA+ students.

On May 9, the American Indian Center celebrated 16 graduates involved with the center, which bridges the richness of American Indian cultures with the strengths of Carolina’s research, education and service opportunities. The ceremony included a traditional musical performance to send students on to the next chapter of their lives.

“The Native community here is so much stronger than when you arrived,” Larry Chavis, the interim director of the center, told the graduates. “You leave us in an incredible place with a bright future, and there are so many young students out there who are ready to follow your path.”

Later that day, the Black Student Movement and the Carolina Black Caucus hosted their second annual graduation ceremony in recognition of black students’ achievements at Carolina. The ceremony was called Umoja, the Swahili word for “unity.”

Interim Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz joined the celebration. He commended the student groups for being powerful voices for inclusion and pledged to continue that work at Carolina.

“Dr. King once said that human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable; every step requires the tireless exertion and passionate concern of dedicated individuals,” Guskiewicz said. “Class of 2019, you are the exemplar for tireless exertion and passionate concern.”

On May 10, Carolina recognized about 40 graduating military-affiliated students at the sixth annual Red, White and Carolina Blue Commencement by giving each student a red, white and blue honor cord to acknowledge their military service and academic success.

“Our great public university exists to serve the people of North Carolina and beyond,” Board of Trustees chair Haywood Cochrane told the graduates. “Thank you for your service — and future service — which takes Carolina’s mission of public service from our campus to the world.”

At the annual ¡Éxitos! Latinx Graduation Ceremony and Recognition Reception that afternoon, graduates were celebrated for their work and dedication to the Latinx community at Carolina. More than 60 graduating seniors were presented with a special stole to wear at Commencement.

In its sixth year, the ceremony was attended by more than 300 family members.

“This is truly a family affair,” said Josmell Perez, director of the Carolina Latinx Center. “Family is something that is very important to all of us.”

The afternoon also included the Buckley Public Service Scholars ceremony, which recognized 322 seniors who each completed at least 300 hours of service during their time at Carolina. Together the students recorded more than 161,000 hours of service in partnership with more than 1,000 organizations.

“Public service is a defining activity of this institution and of the Carolina experience,”  said Ronald Strauss, Carolina’s executive vice provost. “Today we celebrate your accomplishments and recognize all you have done in the name of this University, and what you have done to promote service and engagement in your communities. You’ve earned this honor, and we are truly proud of you.”