For Immediate Release:
May 17, 2021
Primary Media Contact:
Public Relations Specialist
Approximately 1,330 students graduated Saturday during Laurel Ridge’s 50th commencement exercises. The college held a virtual ceremony for the second consecutive year, but allowed students to participate in drive-thru diploma walks on both campuses Thursday and Friday.
The perseverance of students in the face of the pandemic was on the minds of the commencement speakers. Dr. Kim Blosser gave her address from Laurel Ridge’s newest building, Jenkins Hall at the Luray-Page County Center, which opened in January.
“This is what it’s all about, recognizing our outstanding graduates and the hard work that has brought them to this point,” Dr. Blosser said. “What a year this has been. Some of you haven’t been on campus for classes for over a year. Others who just graduated high school in 2020 have never had a face-to-face class at Lord Fairfax.
“Through it all, you’ve overcome whatever obstacles have been placed in front of you, and you’re now a graduate…This just proves, if the pandemic can’t stop you from being a graduate, you are resilient and you can persevere through anything.”
Faith Dellinger, a 2020 Stonewall Jackson High School graduate, was this year’s commencement speaker. She earned her associate degree in general studies on Saturday, and is transferring to Liberty University this fall to pursue a law degree.
“We are resilient,” Dellinger said. “We have been faced with so many changes, so many questions with no answers and so many what-ifs. But, look at us now – we have adjusted, we are bouncing back and we are resilient.”
The pandemic presented students with two choices: whether to feel optimistic or defeated, Dellinger said.
“Although we may have wanted to give up many times, I am so proud of us for believing in the future, having an optimistic outlook and pushing through,” she said. “We have learned that a classroom is not defined by the four walls around us, but by the experiences with our professors and classmates no matter where we are. Instead of being defeated when we ran into a closed door or lost an opportunity, we continued to look for other doors around us that were still open.”
The Outstanding Graduate awards were presented during Saturday’s commencement. The Outstanding Graduate for the Middletown Campus was Daniel “D.J.” Joachim. Joachim captained the Laurel Ridge Cybersecurity team and served as a student ambassador.
“D.J. is a problem solver, a point person, and a go-getter,” said Cybersecurity and Information Technology Professor Henry Coffman as he presented the award. “He breaks down problems before actively seeking solutions, often through superb mental analysis. D.J. has been a wonderful cheerleader and proponent of our cybersecurity program and the college as a whole.”
Morgan McKinney was named the Outstanding Graduate for the Fauquier Campus. Not only is she graduating from high school this year, she is earning her associate degree from Laurel Ridge.
“Morgan is much more than an exemplary student,” said History and Humanities Professor Nicole Martin. “From the time she first began taking courses at Laurel Ridge, she looked for ways to become involved on campus.”
McKinney has been very involved with Phi Theta Kappa, an international honor society for two-year colleges, was named a 2019 Coco-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholar, and was chosen to be a member of the 2020 All-Virginia Academic Team. She is transferring to James Madison University, and then plans to pursue her master’s degree in geoarchaeology at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.
English Professor Kim Lewis praised Laurel Ridge students for “being real heroes” during the pandemic.
“You wore masks,” she said. “You took online classes even if you were uncomfortable in that environment. You dealt with immense stresses – stress about your family’s safety, stress about your kids’ schooling, stress about isolation, stress about jobs, stress about your finances, and of course, stress about your Laurel Ridge classes.
“You’ve done more than you thought you could. You’ve adapted. You were resilient. More than any class before, the Class of 2021 should be proud of itself.”
View the commencement ceremony at www.laurelridge.edu/commencement.
Founded in 1970, Laurel Ridge Community College is a multi-campus public institution of higher education. With four locations — Middletown, Warrenton, Luray-Page County and most recently, Vint Hill— the College serves eight localities in the Shenandoah Valley and northern Piedmont regions. The localities are the counties of Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick, Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren and the city of Winchester. Laurel Ridge offers more than 75 associate degree and certificate programs in a wide variety of disciplines, in addition to providing access to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs offered on site by a four-year institution. Laurel Ridge also serves the business community by offering workforce preparation programs for employees and employers. Laurel Ridge serves more than 9,000 unduplicated credit students and more than 11,000 individuals in professional development and business and industry courses annually.
Laurel Ridge Community College (Laurel Ridge) is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Laurel Ridge Community College. Laurel Ridge Community College is an equal opportunity institution providing educational and employment opportunities, programs, services, and activities and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, age, religion, disability, national origin, marital status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or other non-merit factors. Laurel Ridge also prohibits sexual misconduct including sexual violence or harassment.
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.