ELYRIA, Ohio, May 19, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Colleges and universities across the country that would normally be packed with thousands of graduates celebrating commencement ceremonies with their families sit empty this May. But a college in Elyria, Ohio is anything but empty. Lorain County Community College has added 47,000 flags near its main entrance in a grand art display honoring the 2,178 graduates of the class of 2020. The flags form the shape of a nearly 100,000 square-foot graduation cap.
"When this pandemic forced us to cancel our on-campus commencement and replace it with a virtual ceremony, we knew we had to do something special for this class," said LCCC president, Marcia Ballinger, Ph.D. "They're missing out on a tradition, on a hallmark moment in their lives. So, we wanted to honor each and every graduate in a way we've never done before."
The breathtaking display is a symbolic celebration of the 2020 graduates and all grads since 1964, which marked LCCC's first graduating class. The 47,000 marking flags each represent an LCCC graduate. One square, identified by yellow flags, represents the end of the tassel and the class of 2020.
"The spirit behind this gift is to show our graduates, their friends and families, and our entire community that while we are celebrating this momentous occasion apart, the class of 2020 is united as LCCC graduates today and alumni forever," Dr. Ballinger said.
Uniting is exactly what this artwork has done. Dr. Ballinger dedicated the display to the graduating class during LCCC's virtual commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 16th. That same day, members of this year's graduating class visited campus, many in their regalia, to walk through the display, find their names on the sign that included all 2,178 graduates, and take photos with their families. Graduates like Damarilys Hernandez, who earned an associate of arts degree, stood in the center of the flags while her parents snapped photos.
But also strolling among the display were graduates from decades ago. Robert Mendak graduated from LCCC in 1985. He was there with his wife Mirta, also a 1985 graduate and their son Stephen who graduated in 2019. Steven Logar, a retired educator who graduated from LCCC in 1976, visited the display because, he said, LCCC was where it all started for him.
Even those who've yet to see the artwork in person can feel its unifying impact.
"This art display brought tears to my eyes – not only for the LCCC graduates but all graduates nationwide," said Lisa Piscola, a 1988 LCCC grad who saw photos on Facebook.
The artwork will remain up through May and Dr. Ballinger hopes many will visit during this time, while adhering to the physical distancing rules posted. Because the world still is grappling with a pandemic that's altered the way colleges around the nation celebrate annually and function daily, possibly forever.
"In more ways than they might realize, this class is history in the making. These times are unprecedented, but so are our graduates' innovative thinking, determination, and potential," Dr. Ballinger said. "I've always known LCCC students have grit, but in the past few weeks, as our graduates have overcome adversity and uncertainty that no one in this lifetime has experienced, I've been in awe."
Dr. Ballinger is talking about students like James Wells, Jr., who dropped out of college more than 20 years ago and is finally earning his degree, alongside his son, James Wells III.
"I never dreamed I would be able to graduate from college given the opportunities I wasted as a youth. But I am overjoyed to have the privilege of graduating alongside my own son," Wells Jr. said.
Wells Jr. and his son are proud to represent two yellow flags in the cap's tassel, and to have their flags surrounded by the flags of every graduate who came before them.
That's the sentiment Dr. Ballinger had hoped for. "When you look out at 47,000 flags waving together in the wind, there's an undeniable feeling of accomplishment and togetherness that our community is so in need of these days," Dr. Ballinger said. "This is our gift to the class of 2020."
About Lorain County Community College
Established in 1963, Lorain County Community College is the first community college in Ohio with a permanent campus. For nearly six decades, LCCC has served the diverse needs of the greater Lorain County region by providing affordable access to higher education and now serves 15,000 students each year at the associate degree level, 3,000 through its innovative University Partnership and thousands more in workforce development programs partnering with area employers. LCCC's College Credit Plus program is a leader in the state with 43% of Lorain County high school graduates earning some college credit from LCCC upon high school graduation, saving families $6.5 million in college costs. LCCC is also the first community college in Ohio to be authorized to deliver an Applied Bachelor's Degree in Microelectronic Manufacturing. In 2018, the American Association of Community College recognized LCCC as the Top Community College for Excellence in Student Success and in 2019 LCCC was named an Aspen Prize top 150 U.S. community college by the Aspen Institute.
SOURCE Lorain County Community College