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3:38 p.m. May 10: Updated with video!


Graduation ceremony:
Friday, May 10
10 a.m.
Celeste Center
Ohio State Fairgrounds
717 East 17th Ave., Columbus.

A live stream of the event will be available at:

Even before commencement plans were finalized, just over 1,000 Columbus State Community College students had petitioned for graduation. It’s the first time that many students were seeking to graduate in one term. This year’s larger graduating class has also required that the ceremony be moved to a larger facility.

Among those who are earning a diploma is 60-year-old William Womack.

He says, “I completed high school in 1971. Unfortunately, I had to go to summer school and did not participate in the graduating ceremony with my class. I knew my mother was disappointed, but she never verbally expressed her feelings. I saw my buddies dressed in their caps and gowns walking to graduation. My mother was getting off the bus coming home from work. I watched as she gave them all a hug. When my mother got home I could tell she had tears in her eyes and she was hurt. Well, it took 42 years but my mother will finally see me graduate.”

William’s mother, who is 83, plans to attend graduation where her son will receive his Associate of Applied Science in Mental Health and Addiction Studies. Following a 32-year career with Columbus City Schools, William plans to work with people recovering from drug addictions.

When Sarah Skeen, 29, is handed her diploma for an Associate of Applied Science in Human Resources Management she won’t have any lingering student debt.

Skeen says, “I am the first person in my immediate family to graduate from college and am graduating 100-percent debt free with no student loans to pay off. I have paid for my college education completely on my own.”

Sarah’s story highlights the practicality of a community college education where credits can transfer to a four-year institution. While rising student debt continues to increase for a growing number of students across the nation, about 60 percent of Columbus State graduates leave the college with zero student debt.

Kristin Balmert, 20, is one of 12 students who earned an Associate of Science degree on a special STEM scholarship program through the Choose Ohio First program. It pays full tuition at Columbus State and about half of the tuition once students transfer to The Ohio State University. Kristin will now pursue a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s in nursing at OSU.

Kristin says, “I was told that the only people who go to Columbus State are people that can’t get into another school. Over the past two years I’ve learned that this is anything but true. Smart and hard-working people attend Columbus State.”

After living a life of drug and alcohol addiction, incarceration and homelessness, Kenneth Jackson, 42, is graduating with an associate degree in Mental Health, Addiction Studies and Developmental Disabilities—and recognition that he is one of Ohio’s most outstanding community college students.

Fueled by a desire to turn his life around, Kenneth came to Columbus State and became an honor student, a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and he was named to the All-Ohio Academic Team as one of the top community college students in the state. He plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Social Work at Capital University.

The commencement address will be delivered by Tanny Crane, CEO and President of the Crane Group in Columbus.