Gulf Coast State College holds modified graduation ceremony for Class of 2021


PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB)–It was an exciting day for Gulf Coast State College students as they celebrated their graduation. The students were recognized for their hard work and success all while earning their degrees through two tumultuous years.

It was not your typical graduation ceremony.

“Well we’re outside of the college and for the first time ever that we know of, this was a drive-thru graduation,” said Dr. John Holdnack, the President of Gulf Coast State College.

Students piled into their cars with their loved ones, wearing their caps, gowns, and masks. The ceremony was modified due to COVID-19.

“Definitely not what I expected going into college to graduate like this, but it’s working pretty good,” said Connor Christian, a new graduate.

The college says they wanted to make sure they still got the experience of walking across the stage.

“They got out on one side of the stage, the graduate came across and their families could actually drive in front of the stage and take pictures and videos,” Dr. Holdnack said.

150 students are now able to call themselves college graduates.

“It feels amazing. It was a really rough 3 years but I’m glad I made it,” said Andrea Grant, another new graduate.

The students earned their degrees all while living through Hurricane Michael and COVID-19.

“No graduates in the history of higher education in this country have ever had to deal with two catastrophic natural disasters of this magnitude. Ever,” Dr. Holdnack said.

Despite all they have been through, their accomplishments speak for themselves.

“I’m feeling proud as a mom of 4. 4 children, 2 jobs, been doing it since 2016,” said Cassandra Morgan-Meeks, a graduate.

College staff cheered the students on from the parking lot, congratulating them for crossing the finish line.

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