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ACC holds drive-through commencement for 2021 grads

News Photo by Crystal Nelson Alpena Community College graduate Lilly Lewis attended the college’s drive-through commencement on Thursday via a school bus. Her family accompanied her to the ceremony on the bus, where they cheered her on, honked, and rang cow bells.

ALPENA — About 70 Alpena Community College graduates participated in a drive-through commencement ceremony on Thursday.

College officials decided to hold commencement in a drive-through format this year because coronavirus restrictions would not allow large gatherings in Park Arena, where the ceremony is traditionally held.

Instead, the graduates with their families in tow, pulled up to Park Arena in everything from cars and trucks to convertibles and even school buses to make their walk of achievement.

After their name was read by Electrical Instructor Todd Artley, graduates were able to bump fists with College President Don MacMaster, who then handed each graduate their diploma cover, while members of the ACC Board of Trustees cheered them on.

Family members also cheered, honked, and took photos from inside their vehicles before the graduates returned to their vehicles and exited the drive through.

News Photo by Crystal Nelson Alpena Community College graduate and Jesse Besser Award Winner Yuki Nishibashi waves as he walks to the tent at the college’s drive-through commencement Thursday in front of Park Arena.

College officials were not able to hold a commencement ceremony last year, but wanted graduates to have a ceremony this year where they could receive their diploma covers in person and celebrate their achievements with family and friends.

MacMaster said graduation is the highlight of the year.

“This was our take on how we could do it in a way that people could feel like they’ve had a bit of a personal graduation touch,” he said. “And I can speak for myself, and I am willing to speak for the trustees, we’re just having a lot of fun.”

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, a total of 337 students graduated from ACC this year.

Students who did not attend the drive-through commencement ceremony can still watch the 2021 commencement video, which is posted on the college’s website: alpenacc.edu.

News Photo by Crystal Nelson Alpena Community College Instructors Larry and Mary Jane Thomson cheer college students on Thursday outside of the Besser Technical Center at the college’s drive-through commencement ceremony.

The video encapsulates a number of the regular commencement activities including speeches and the presentation of student awards.

In other graduation news:

The Jesse and Anna Besser Awards, which represent the highest recognition of academic achievement, were awarded for the 47th year. The Anna Besser Award was given to Ki’Auna Meyer and the Jesse Besser Award was given to Yuki Nishibashi.

The John M. Grant Front Runner Awards were given to Christy Heimke and Peter Huizinga. The awards are given annually to a graduating male and female non-traditional student who have demonstrated unusual dedication in the pursuit of higher education.

News Photo by Crystal Nelson Alpena Community College graduate Meryem Demirkol arrives at the college’s drive-through commencement ceremony in a convertible on Thursday in front of Park Arena.

News Photo by Crystal Nelson Alpena Community College Electrical Instructor Todd Artley announces the candidates for graduation Thursday as part of the college’s drive-through commencement ceremony.

News Photo by Crystal Nelson Alpena Community College President Don MacMaster bumps fists with graduate Andrew Booth during the college’s drive-through commencement ceremony Thursday in front of Park Arena.

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