Friday, 105 students graduated from Central Alabama Community College in a ceremony at the Betty Carol Graham Technology Center.

“Educators devote their professional lives to this very moment to witness the hope and the sense of accomplishment that I see in your faces here today,” college president Dr. Susan Burrow said. “I stand before you today with great pride in your academic growth and potential for your futures and to signify a new beginning for you.”

Retired U.S. Army veteran and student Maryshay Ray, who won a national persuasive speech competition in Orlando hosted by two-year college honor society Phi Theta Kappa, said in the keynote address she would have thought it impossible two years ago she would graduate.

“But in the words of Walt Disney, ‘It’s kind of fun to do the impossible,’” she said.

Ray told the audience when she got out of the service she struggled to find balance in her life and to discover who she was without a military uniform. 

“It was a saving grace I didn’t know I needed and the faculty, staff and administration in this institution reminded me I needed my resiliency, mutability and courage,” Ray said.

Ray she was nervous taking her first quiz and told her teacher she couldn’t do well. But Ray said her professor encouraged her although she failed the quiz.

“It was her words of encouragement and validation that reminded me that I was good enough to be here,” Ray said. “I just had to rediscover my ability to bounce back.”

Ray said she began to apply bouncing back to the rest of her life.

“I encourage you all, class of 2019, to do the same,” Ray said. “Know that you are worthy. You are worthy of great things and if it does not come easy, stay resilient, my friends.”

Student Jasmine Foster recognized family and friends of the graduates.

“I’m blessed that I have friends who have been very accommodating as well as patient throughout this journey,” Foster said. “We all have people here throughout today who have been like my support system — compassionate, encouraging and patient and I am thankful for each of our support systems today.”