RCCC ceremony kicks off graduation season at Cabarrus Arena

Graduates march past the crowd as they enter the arena for the graduation ceremony on May 15.
Graduates march past the crowd as they enter the arena for the graduation ceremony on May 15. MARTY PRICE

Many graduates decorated their mortar boards with symbols of their course of study. Others chose to use lettering to send personal messages: Short phrases, such as, “I did it,” “Thanks, Mom” and even “Success is in my DNA,” proclaimed their announcements as they entered the arena for the Rowan-Cabarrus Community College commencement ceremony May 15.

Brandi Bennett, 27, used the word “finally,” sandwiched between two pictures of her daughter, Karlie Johnson, to symbolize a celebration of her accomplishments. Karlie was born 5 months ago, as Bennett worked on earning her Associate in General Education.

Acknowledging that it wasn’t easy, Bennett said, “It was all for her (Karlie),” before heading into the arena to finally receive her diploma.

During her commencement speech, Darise Caldwell, president of Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, challenged the graduates to do the right thing and to make a difference to someone every day: “The potential for greatness is within each of you this evening ... put your fears aside and go for it.”

This year the ceremony included closed captioning on the big screens so that those who could not hear the names being called could see their graduate’s name as he or she walked across the stage. Some grads acknowledged the crowd before receiving their diplomas and returning to their seats.

In closing, Carol Spalding, president of RCCC, said that with 1,251 graduates, ages 17 to 69, the class of 2015 was the largest graduating class in the school’s history. Acknowledging their accomplishment she gave permission to toss their caps but many didn’t: They wanted to protect the decorations on top.

Thousands of friends and family lined the walkways outside the arena, jockeying for position, trying to get the first glimpse of the graduates. With arms waving over the crowd and shouts back and forth, the proud entourages met up with the celebrants.

Most wanted to get a picture with their grad, while flowers, cards, hugs, congratulations and dinner plans were exchanged. Talk of “How proud we are!” and “What I am going to do next?” filled the air along with laughter and cheers.

For others there were quiet moments. As soon as Bennett could get out of her gown she reunited with daughter Karlie before she took off her mortar board. Seeming to be alone in the crowd that surrounded them, Bennett held her close and said, “Give Mommy a kiss,” recreating the picture of the two kissing that decorated the top of her cap.

Marty Price is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email him at

Learn more:

There will be 11 high school graduations June 11-13 at the Cabarrus Arena and Events Center in Concord. For a complete schedule of graduations, visit