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ANDERSON --- Eighteen years ago Dr. Valerie Ramsey, then an accountant/fiscal analyst at Clemson University, was asked to deliver the commencement address to Tri-County Technical College's summer graduates. She told the Class of 1997 her personal life story and how Tri-County helped her to overcome barriers and permitted her to achieve her goals - and transformed her life.

She returned to the stage again this year, as a College Commissioner and retired chief business officer for the College of Health, Education and Human Development at Clemson University. She emphasized to the 302 graduates of the Class of 2015 the power of education and the importance of sharing their stories.  "You are the most powerful public service announcement Tri-County can have," said Dr. Ramsey, now an adjunct professor at Southern Wesleyan University teaching adult and graduate studies courses in the school of business and the school of education.

"You are more than where you came from.  Go out and make your mark," said Dr. Ramsey, who was the first alumna in the history of the College to serve on Tri-County's governing board and the first Tri-County Commissioner to serve on a national committee with the Association of Community College Trustees.

"Everyone has a story, but the power comes in sharing it," said Dr. Ramsey, who was asked by the late Dr. Don Garrison, former president of Tri-County from 1971 until his retirement in 2003, to speak to the College Commission in 1997 about her journey.  "He once said that my story was the epitome of what Tri-County Technical College was all about.  He made me believe that I had a story and spoke to my destiny," she said. 

"I was very ashamed of my circumstances and feared what those Commissioners would think of me.  Sometimes we don't talk about things because we fear failure.  But failure is not fatal.  In fact, the most wonderful thing happened when I shared it.  It was like my destiny was unleashed!  It made me know that it was my struggles that gave me the strength and stamina to persevere, to aspire and to achieve.  I was no longer held hostage to shame about how I was raised.  I was raised in poverty, but through education, poverty was not raised in me.  We are more than our environment.  It shapes us but it does not control us.  I appreciate my struggles because it produced my strength."

Back in 1975, a 21-year-old Ramsey entered Tri-County's secretarial classes through the federally-funded Comprehensive Manpower Program.  She was a single parent who was looking for a chance at a better life that would one day enable her to support herself and her five-year-old daughter.

It's not always how you start out, but how you finish, said Dr. Ramsey.  "My family's track record in higher education at the time that I came to Tri-County (1975) was non-existent.  Going to college was never considered an option and really wasn't even discussed," said Dr. Ramsey, an Easley native and resident. 

"Looking back, I realized there were some barriers, real or imagined, that needed to be reckoned with," she said.  She dropped out of school at age 16 to become a teenage mother.  She did return, repeating the 10th grade and earning her diploma.  "I consider that one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do in my life," she said.  "Repeating the 10th grade was a pivotal moment in my life."

College became an unexpected reality when friends told her about Tri-County's Comprehensive Manpower program that provided financial assistance to eligible students.

"Our perception is our reality.  The greatest barrier that I had was the one in my own mind that told me that I didn't belong at college.   It was nothing that was in my vocabulary or anything talked about in my house.  It didn't take a degree to change my life, but the degree to which my life was changed was huge," she said.

After receiving a clerical certificate, she worked as a secretary at Clemson University for the next 10 years, and then began taking university transfer classes at Tri-County during her lunch hours and evenings.

"I knew I needed to further my education to advance in my career," she said.  She graduated in 1988 with an associate in arts degree and later earned her bachelor's degree in Human Resource Management from Southern Wesleyan University, followed by a master's in Human Resource Development in 1995 from Clemson University.  She earned a doctorate in Educational Leadership in Higher Education from Clemson in 2003 and a master of divinity degree at SWU in 2008.

"Woe unto me if I do not share my story.  If it helps one person to get off of welfare so they can fare well; if one gets off of parole and on to payroll; if one is not locked behind jail cells but unlocks his brain cells; if one moves from minimum wage to their maximum stage; from living on the perimeter of life; from socioeconomic despair, and on the edge of poverty, it is all worth it!  Ignorance intimidates, but sharing your story liberates, and releases those it devoured, and its victims becoming empowered.  My transformation not only changed me, but my daughter, and grandsons," she said. 

"Share your story with others and let them know that it is never too late to find their place at Tri-County.  It does not matter where you came from, from here, you can go anywhere.  Tri-County is designed to meet you where you are and help you get to where you want to be.  You won't find another college in the nation that Tri-County cannot compete with.  Faculty and staff are invested in helping you succeed, because when you succeed, the College succeeds. All of the support and nurture you need to succeed is here," she said.

Dr. Ramsey urged the graduates to continue to learn. "You have set a great legacy for your children and discovered that there is more to you than where you came from," she said.

Following the speech, Tri-County President Ronnie L. Booth and other College officials presented degrees, diplomas and certificates to the following graduates:

Anderson County

From Anderson:

Dina Alekseenko, Computer Technology; Christian Andres Alfaro, Management; Erin Milagros Alfaro, Data Entry Clerk; Ashley Jill Black, Surgical Technology; Jeffrey Lamar Brannon, Practical Nursing; Kadarius Jarel Brown, General Engineering Technology; Scott Anthony Brown, General Technology - Welding; Jeffrey Paul Burnett, Medical Lab Technology; Avis LaNae Burnhart, Associate in Arts; Chelsea Herring Byce, Associate in Science; Adam Caleb Christie, Computer Technology; Theresa R. Colbert, Expanded Duty Dental Assisting; Alicia Marie Crawford, Associate in Arts; Wilton Jefferson Crawford IV, Associate in Arts; Krysta Star Crumpton, Medical Office Specialist; Rosheika Calecia Curry, Law Enforcement and Corrections Services; Brittney Nichole Davenport, Practical Nursing; Carmita Dorcant Gilles, Marketing; Marcus Anthony Eisen, Associate in Arts; Norma Constanza Evans, Practical Nursing; Robert Lee Fowler, Associate in Science; Taimikilale Cherrelle Fowler, General Studies; James Christian Franks, Associate in Arts; Christine Latoya Gillard, Associate in Arts; Donell Glover, Criminal Justice Technology; Kristin Bailey Gosnell, Associate in Science; Alexandria Nichole Goulet, Practical Nursing; Courtney Anne Hallett, Accounting; Tara Daniel Harmon, Medical Assisting; Sloan Thomas Hart, General Technology - Mechatronics; Baylee Danielle Hawkins, Associate in Arts; Nova Dzidra Heaton, Practical Nursing; David Wallace Hinnant, General Technology - Welding; Michael Logan Hood, Management; Jamison S. Jones, Computer Technology; Dina Kovalishin, Practical Nursing; James Gilles Lafaille, Multi-Process Welding; Beverly Louise Lavier, Administrative Office Technology; Anna Elizabeth Lewis, Administrative Office Technology; Kelly M. Liles, Practical Nursing; Jessica Jetonne Lomax, Management; Graham Hallman Lynch, Industrial Electronics Technology; Olga Vladimirovna Marett, Practical Nursing; Jeanna Bethani Martin, Criminal Justice Technology; Evelyn Orsena Mattison, Administrative Office Technology; Jacob Mitchell Maxwell, Computer Technology; Megan Elizabeth McLees, Associate in Arts; Don Alan Morris, Manufacturing Management and Leadership; Jamie Brandon Morrow, Associate in Science; Chantel Brianna Murphy, Practical Nursing; Rhett Aaron Osborn, Computer Technology; Ramon Alberto Paez Dams, Accounting; Tikia Preshonda Patterson, Medical Assisting; Tamika Chareka Paul, Nursing; Brooke Phillips, Associate in Science; Kayla Renee Phillips, Practical Nursing; Marina Gennadyevna Polk, Practical Nursing; Corey Lynn Rainey, Expanded Duty Dental Assisting; Santaria Nycole Rogers, Expanded Duty Dental Assisting; Brandon Michael Ross, General Technology - Welding; Jennifer Lauren Rumsey, Practical Nursing; Gregory Michael Scarbrough, Management; Bradley Matthew Skelton, Associate in Science; Chantal Deanna Smith, Practical Nursing; Vicky Lynn Smith, Associate in Science; Shannon Kay Stamey, Practical Nursing; Andrew Mitchell Stephens, Associate in Arts; Bryan Melvin Taylor, Basic Electronics; Marissa Kaileen Walters, Expanded Duty Dental Assisting; Jacquelyn Teresa Watson, Medical Assisting; Latchia Shanta White, Practical Nursing; and Tamara Macque Williams, Expanded Duty Dental Assisting

From Belton:

Robert Edward Clinedinst, Associate in Science; Amber Rae Gambrell, Surgical Technology; Caitlyn Marie Low, Associate in Science; Johnny Tyler Phillips, Computer Technology; and Chelsie Brianna Whitman, Practical Nursing

From Honea Path:

William Henry Kline, General Technology - Welding; and Frankie Darlene Spearman, Surgical Technology

From Iva:

Autumn Nichole Barnett, Expanded Duty Dental Assisting; Kandace Talisa Bell, Practical Nursing; Jordan Nathaniel Black, Industrial Electronics Technology; James Erik Bowman, General Technology - Welding; Barron Chase Brown, Industrial Electronics Technology; David Benjamin Crowe, General Technology - Mechatronics; Forest Anthony Grice, Jr., General Technology - Mechatronics; Hannah Marie Hall, Associate in Science; Shane Edward Thomas, General Engineering Technology; and Dana Marie Vickery, Practical Nursing

From La France:

Kenneth Tyler Davis, Criminal Justice Technology; and John David Drake, Practical Nursing

From Pelzer:

Georgia Marie Livingston, Expanded Duty Dental Assisting; and Zachary Ryan Tennihill, Criminal Justice Technology

From Pendleton:

Jonathan David Allen, Associate in Science; Jason Martin Anderson, Associate in Science; Charles William Burks, II, Criminal Justice Technology; Troy Jamieson Griffis, Industrial Welding; Tamekia Jo Williams Pickens, Medical Assisting; Dustin Anthony Short, Computer Technology; and Timothy Kyler Watt, Industrial Electronics Technology

From Piedmont:

Michael Paul Chapman, Automotive Technology; and Jesse Ross Stowers, General Technology - Welding

From Starr:

Daniel Thomas Holmes, Industrial Electronics Technology; Felisha Brooke Lindley, Surgical Technology; Amber Nicole Mauldin, Management; and Jake Anthony Wilson, General Technology - Mechatronics

From Townville:

Chelsea Jane Cansler, Practical Nursing; Emily Marie Forrest, Management; and Jennifer Lauren Pelfrey, Computer Technology

From Williamston:

Teri Jo Parker, Medical Office Specialist; Brandon Kyle Swilling, Management; and Charles Maylon Watkins, Associate in Science


Oconee County

From Fair Play:

Colton Doyle Gibson, Criminal Justice Technology; Misty Dawn Mast, Management; Kera Lynn McGlothen, Accounting; and Jacob Dillon Rogers, Industrial Electronics Technology

From Mountain Rest:

Sophia Clara Mount, Expanded Duty Dental Assisting; and Anna Elizabeth Vissage, Management

From Salem:

Ashley Nicole Cannone, University Studies; Shannon Rauch Evans, Expanded Duty Dental Assisting; and Christina Danielle Wood, Criminal Justice Technology

From Seneca:

Seth Richard Ables, General Technology - Mechatronics; Ashley R. Booth, Associate in Science; Carlotta Louise Bowman, Administrative Office Technology; Hannah Marie Brooks, Practical Nursing; Judy Ann Carter, Practical Nursing; Joseph Tyler Crane, Associate in Arts; Brittany Nicole Crenshaw, Associate in Arts; Paul Michael Demetres, General Technology - Welding; Krystal Marie Eades, Associate in Arts; Pamela Dianne Evans, Administrative Office Technology; Patricia Flores, Practical Nursing; John Eric Gibson, General Technology - Welding; Jesse Ray Gordon, General Technology - Mechatronics; Carson Brooks Guill, General Technology - Mechatronics; Christian Scott Hamilton, Computer Technology; Scott Robert Hollenbaugh, General Technology - Mechatronics; Colby Taylor Jones, Associate in Science; Maria Rosa Judez Riquelme, Medical Assisting; Tony Wayne LeRoy, Industrial Electronics Technology; Meagan Hope Lewin, Associate in Arts; Joseph Etta Mbi, Manufacturing Management and Leadership; Alex Benjamin McCaffrey, General Technology - Mechatronics; Adriano Michael Menin, Management; Kellie T. Powell, Administrative Office Technology; Lisa Mize Strickland, Medical Assisting; Stephen Ray Stutts, Practical Nursing; Amy Michelle Weaver, Practical Nursing; Gordon Viencent Whitten, Basic Machining; and Phillip Andrew Whitten, General Technology - Mechatronics

From Walhalla:

Isaac G. Aguilar, Practical Nursing; Christy Michelle Blackwell, Surgical Technology; Melissa Kay Boomhower, Surgical Technology; Cheri Elizabeth Christensen, Medical Assisting; Shinika Corbett, Practical Nursing; Emily Sheyenne Frost, Marketing; Angel Ramona Gogreve, Medical Assisting; Crystal Dawn Guthrie, Practical Nursing; William Randall Lee, Criminal Justice Technology; Kyle David Lemere, General Technology - Welding; Audrey Leanna Loudermilk, Management; Cody Vincent Price, Associate in Science; Selena Valdizon, Associate in Science; and Michael Larry Whitfield, Management

From West Union:

William Butler Addis, General Technology - Mechatronics; Kelly Denice Brewer, Associate in Arts; Stephanie Brooke Burrell, Medical Assisting; Christina Frances Freeman, Practical Nursing; Shane Lee Satterfield, General Technology - Mechatronics; and Michelle Lynn Worthington, Associate in Science

From Westminster:

Emma Virginia Broome, Associate in Science; AudriAnna Dorothea Carter, Expanded Duty Dental Assisting; Sidney Blair Davis, Industrial Electronics Technology; Johnathan Ryan Earle, Management; Christa Turpin Leroy, Management; Timothy Edward Macijewski, Industrial Electronics Technology; Katlyn Marie Nesbitt, Administrative Office Technology; Wesley Jonathan O'Kelley, Machine Tool Technology; Yveta Rabatinova, Medical Assisting; Jessica Ann Simmemon, Nursing; Charlie Dan Smith, Criminal Justice Technology; and Gregory Allen Westmoreland, Associate in Arts


Pickens County

From Central:

Hope Nicole Davidson, Medical Assisting; Grady Michael Delorey, General Technology - Welding; Hayden Andrew Dutschke, Associate in Arts; Niya Contessa Earle, Administrative Support; Lauren Paige Evatt, Expanded Duty Dental Assisting; William Chase Gainey, Associate in Science; Adrian Hernandez, Expanded Duty Dental Assisting; Samantha Nicole King, Early Childhood Development; Kyle Matthew Merck, Associate in Arts; Garrett Andrew Mock, Associate in Science; Amber Leigh Newton, Practical Nursing; Ruby Mel Balanban Polas, Nursing; Pamela Kaye Stewart, Associate in Science; Trelli Ann Westbury, Associate in Arts; and Jennifer Kathryn Wood, Associate in Arts

From Clemson:

Renee D. Braswell, Medical Assisting; Paul David Dutkiewicz, Associate in Arts; Anna Megan Fisher, Associate in Arts; Sarah Michelle Hickey, Practical Nursing; Phillip Nathanael Jent, Associate in Science; Dillon Keith Matthews, Associate in Science; Matthew Denton Murray, Associate in Science; Mariana Christine Offik, Management; Brady Alexander Segars, Associate in Science; and Lewis Roger Teeple, III, General Technology - Mechatronics

From Easley:

Eugenia Suzanne Acosta, Medical Assisting; Cetera Le'Royce Alexander, Administrative Support; Rachel Bader, Associate in Arts; Jesus Bautista-Perez, General Engineering Technology; Dillon Oakley Cooper, Associate in Arts; Katelyn Breanne Corley, Practical Nursing; Lauren Brooke Dennis, Associate in Arts; Moriah Elizabeth Dodgins, Criminal Justice Technology; Chad Edward Dodson, Management; Kaitlin Marie Gibson, Associate in Science; Nicholas Chance Hall, General Technology - Mechatronics; Austin Nelson Hastings, Associate in Science; Bennett W. Hendricks, Criminal Justice Technology; Amanda Jane Hernandez, Practical Nursing; Edward Dylan Huffman, Criminal Justice Technology; Dominic Anthony Ingardia, Associate in Science; Johnna Renee Jenkins, Medical Assisting; Ryan Mckenzie Lee, Associate in Science; Summer Nicole Long, Expanded Duty Dental Assisting; Adam David Moore, General Technology - Mechatronics; Lionel Kennedy Owens, III, Management; Sara Renee Pettus, Veterinary Technology; Heather Lynnette Quinn, Associate in Science; Caitlin Grace Raines, Practical Nursing; Cassidy Gail Sargent, Medical Office Specialist; Katie Lee Shook, Associate in Science; Sydney Hope Stancell, Associate in Arts; Justin Michael Stumbo, General Technology - Welding; Ashley Olivia Styles, Computer Technology; Hannah Elizabeth Sutherland, Surgical Technology; and Kristin Michelle Verdin, Criminal Justice Technology

From Liberty:

Clint William Black, General Technology - Welding; Erica Nicole Bolding, Expanded Duty Dental Assisting; Corey James Bouchillon, General Technology - Welding; Kaci Ashton Cannon, Practical Nursing; Shannon Renau Carlisle, Practical Nursing; Taylor Marie Dickard, Practical Nursing; Savannah Jan Ladd, Associate in Science; Randall Shane McAlister, General Technology - Welding; Corwin Patrick Mount, General Technology - Mechatronics; Kaylin Danielle Nix, Management; Melinda Jaye Owen, Management; Crystal Dawn Posey, Surgical Technology; Adrienne Elizabeth Marie Sexton, Criminal Justice Technology; and Justin Kendrick Smith, Industrial Welding

From Norris:

Justin Zachary Lewis, Industrial Electronics Technology

From Pickens:

Margaret Elizabeth Bashor, General Technology - Welding; Katrina Marie Byers, Expanded Duty Dental Assisting; Jason L. Cassell, General Technology - Welding; Cora Elizabeth Grant, Associate in Science; Trevor Lewis Hayes, Management; Brian Curtis Masters, Heating, Ventilation and AC Technology; Stephanie Laura Mulkey, Expanded Duty Dental Assisting; Mary Rebecca Norris, Expanded Duty Dental Assisting; Haley Rebecca Phillips, Expanded Duty Dental Assisting; Quinton Everett Setzer, General Technology - Welding; and Darlene Marie Wimpey, Expanded Duty Dental Assisting

From Six Mile:

Lauren Brittany Gray, Practical Nursing



From Abbeville:

Kathleen Elizabeth Davenport, Associate in Arts; and Stephanie Yvette Mullins, Management

From Aiken:

Alan Childress Craig, General Technology - Welding

From Blythewood:

Thomas Forman, Jr., Associate in Science

From Chapin:

Trent Walker Leaphart, Associate in Arts

From Clover:

Sydney Harper Bowman, Associate in Arts

From Columbia:

Mao Li, Computer Technology; and David Hunter Nobles, Associate in Arts

From Cross:

Elias Couturier DuPree, Associate in Arts

From Estill:

Haley Mims Youmans, Practical Nursing

From Fort Hood:

Claire Elizabeth Oswald, Management

From Greenville:

Nequala Tuchelle Durham, Nursing; Natasha T. Etheredge, Practical Nursing; Sierra Denise Jenkins-Aiken, Surgical Technology; and Christopher Robert Otto, Jr., Practical Nursing

From Greenwood:

Kariza Rosan Bayaua, Practical Nursing

From Greer:

Ashton McGee Quinley, Nursing

From Hartwell, GA:

Richard Daryl Rucker, General Technology - Mechatronics

From Hilton Head Island:

James Edward Neely, Jr., Associate in Arts

From Lyman:

Jennifer Michelle Motes, Veterinary Technology

From Martin:

Chaquana Aisha White, Associate in Science

From Mount Pleasant:

Andrew Stephen Baldrick, Management

From North Augusta:

John Steven Ellinger, Associate in Arts; and Elizabeth Norton Harper, Medical Assisting

From Orangeburg:

Priya Patel, Practical Nursing

From Rock Hill:

Devin James Alexander, Associate in Arts

From Simpsonville:

Catherine Despotovic, Management; Emily Allison Johnson, Associate in Arts; Emily Buist Lide, Associate in Arts; Joseph Andrew Mahrle, Associate in Arts; and Brett Charles Wyman, Associate in Science

From Taylors:

Shane Lemuel Rankin, General Technology - Welding

From Toccoa, GA:

Jaquial Devonte and Levon Durham, Associate in Arts

From West Columbia:

Christopher Gordon Mills, Associate in Arts

Also graduating:

Christi Caroline Corder, Nursing; Brandon Michael Philbeck, General Technology - Mechatronics; Dalton Timothy Smith, Associate in Science; and Shane Donovan Whitner, Radio and TV Broadcasting