PRCC graduates told to embrace change

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HATTIESBURG – Approximately 500 new Pearl River Community College graduates left the James Lynn Cartlidge Forrest County Multi Purpose Center Wednesday armed with diplomas and the skills and knowledge to take them into the workplace or on to more schooling.The students received Associate in Applied Science or Associate in Arts degrees or Certificates of Proficiency from PRCC President William Lewis after a traditional procession and a brief commencement speech by PRCC alumnus Raymond Hartfield of Austin, Texas.Hampered by laryngitis, Hartfield told the graduates they face a world of inevitable change.”One of your major tasks will be to accommodate and take advantage of change,” he said. “Continue to learn and reinvent yourself in order to remain marketable and valuable in your field. Thirty percent of you will wind up working in a job that doesn”t exist today.”Hartfield, AT&T director of education and research, graduated from then-Pearl River Junior College in 1967 as a music major. He went on to earn bachelor”s and master”s degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of South Alabama and directed school bands before joining the corporate world.”Always remember where you came from,” he said. “Each of us carries the dust and dreams of the places that helped shape us and all of us can count our blessings that our path has taken us through Pearl River.”For dental hygiene graduate Anne Jones of Hattiesburg, graduation marked the start of a second career after many years as a stay-at-home mother to four children.”It was a real challenge initially,” she said. “I was fearful the brain wouldn”t work, but it”s amazing how that academic part of the brain kicks back in. My previous career before children was computer processing and I taught data processing at Jones County Junior College and Holmes Community College.”Jones, 53, graduated with honors and as a member of Phi Theta Kappa honor society and delivered the invocation. She will work this summer at a Hattiesburg dental clinic where an employee is on maternity leave.Heather Schmottlach of Bay St. Louis will continue her education at USM-Gulf Coast. An English major, she graduated with special honors and also is a member of Phi Theta Kappa.”It”s been decently hard, challenging, but not too difficult,” she said.Krystal Lowe of Purvis plans to spend the summer at home with her four children and start looking for work as a medical billing and coding specialist or a medical transcriptionist when they return to school.”The first two semesters were super easy and the next two were super hard, very involved courses toward the end,” she said.Approximately 700 students completed their degree or certificate programs in July 2009, December 2009 and last week and were eligible to take part in Wednesday”s ceremony.