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Family is a Featured Theme as Thousands Graduate from SNHU

The top of a graduation cap decorated with yellow and orange flowers and the words We did it, mom.

The excitement was palpable this weekend throughout two days, four ceremonies and receptions at SNHU Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire and on campus at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). While students’ incredible achievements were foremost in everyone’s mind, the focus was also on family with more than 20,000 supporters celebrating 8,000 graduates on hand for Commencement.

At SNHU, family extends beyond the relatives and friends who came to cheer graduates on. During their academic journey, students became an intrinsic part of the SNHU family, creating longstanding connections with staff, faculty, alumni, fellow students and graduates.

Family was also a theme for graduates, some of whom were graduating alongside a parent, a sibling, a spouse or a child. Particularly poignant were the experiences of mothers graduating alongside a child on Mother’s Day weekend.

Moms and Daughters Cross the Finish Line Together

Lynne Cariglio graduated with her daughter, Casey Whittington. Cariglio, the mother of five and stepmom to five, graduated with her associate degree from SNHU’s competency-based program in 2016 and went on to pursue a bachelor’s degree in management. Whittington decided to pursue the same degree, and the two were proud to finish together. Lynne dubbed her daughter “the best study buddy” she could have hoped for.

Susan Lasala and Jennifer Gardner in their cap and gown and holding SNHU degrees.Susan Lasala graduated alongside her daughter, Jennifer Gardner. Lasala earned her bachelor’s in public administration with a concentration in sociology, while Gardner double-majored in mathematics and IT.

“This is a really special moment because graduating with my mom is amazing. We get to both walk the stage at the same time and attend the ceremony together and see each other graduate,” Gardner said. “Plus, I’m just really proud of her. She didn’t think she could do this and she’s done wonderfully the entire time. So, it’s really awesome we can do it together and celebrate the moment as a family.”

Graduate Jessie Rogers perhaps provided her mother the best Mother’s Day surprise of all. Her mom Kathleen Rogers completed her degree in 2017 and didn’t walk during Commencement. She’s regretted it since. Her daughter worked behind the scenes with SNHU to surprise Rogers with a cap and gown and the opportunity for a do-over, walking together in recognition of their achievements. Needless to say, it was a surprise that went over well and garnered an incredibly emotional response from her mother. When the realization of what was about to transpire started to sink in, SNHU President Paul LeBlanc presented Rogers with flowers and a cap and gown so she could share in this special day with her daughter.

Showing Their Kids That Nothing is Impossible

Parker and Jessica Bryant in their cap and gown and holding SNHU degrees.There’s Parker and Jessica Bryant, parents of five young kids, who are graduating with a bachelor’s in game art and development and a BS in Criminal Justice, respectively. Parker’s an active-duty airman in the U.S. Air Force and his wife is also a military veteran. Throughout overseas deployments, family responsibilities and more, the two wanted to show their kids they can also achieve anything they set their mind to.

Shelly and Salvadore Villa Jr., parents of four daughters, earned criminal justice degrees; she with a bachelor’s in criminal justice with a concentration in criminology and her husband with his associate degree. Salvadore an active-duty servicemember in the U.S. Navy, and Shelly is the recipient of a full-tuition scholarship through SNHU’s partnership with Operation Homefront. Shelly, in particular, wanted to show her daughters what she could accomplish, particularly with the challenges military life can bring.

The Bryants and Villas are just four of the more than 2,700 military-affiliated SNHU graduates this year. With nearly 80% of 2019 SNHU graduates age 25 years or older, many are working parents and first-generation college students.

While 8,000 graduates attended Commencement, that group represents a fraction of the 21,000-plus graduates globally in 2019. Over 800 were campus students, with more than 20,000 who completed their degree programs online. Of those graduates, 15,236 earned undergraduate degrees, 6,683 master’s degrees and 11 doctoral degrees. SNHU’s class of 2019 represents 13 honor societies as well.

The 2019 graduating class is comprised of students from 58 countries and all 50 states within the United States and will join a network of more than 115,000 alumni worldwide.

Class of 2019 Student Speakers

Student speakers at the four commencement ceremonies reflected SNHU’s student population in many ways, from their military service to refugee experience and breaking the cycle of homelessness and hunger to create a better life for their families. The selected speakers included Damayanti Subedi, Jacinta Casmir-Anyanwu, Robert Lee Testerman, Jr. and U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Kurt Waterstradt.

Honorary Degree Recipients

Honorary degrees were awarded to the speakers who delivered the Commencement Address at each ceremony:

Jarrett J. Krosoczka is a New York Times best-selling children’s author and illustrator and a two-time winner of the Children’s Choice Book Award. His memoir, “Hey, Kiddo,” was a National Book Award finalist in 2018.

The top of a graduation cap decorated with the SNHU logo.Michele S. Jones is a 9th command sergeant major of the U.S. Army, retired. She is the first woman in the United States Army Reserve to reach the position of command sergeant major. Jones is currently serving as the vice president of training with Civility Management Solutions, LLC.

The Honorable Cory Booker is a U.S. Senator from New Jersey and Democratic candidate for president. Booker has represented New Jersey in the U.S. Senate since 2013. He is a graduate of Stanford University, the University of Oxford, and Yale Law School.

The Honorable Randall Woodfin is an American politician currently serving as mayor of Birmingham, Alabama. A native of Birmingham and graduate of Cumberland School of Law, Woodfin is an attorney and former president of the Birmingham Board of Education

Pamme Boutselis is a writer and content director in higher education. Follow her on Twitter @pammeb or connect on LinkedIn.

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