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Northeast holds virtual commencement as it celebrates student success

Northeast holds virtual commencement as it celebrates student success

NORFOLK, Neb. – The Cox Activity Center on the Norfolk campus of Northeast Community College is typically filled to capacity on the third Saturday in May as the institution holds its annual commencement ceremony. However, that wasn’t the case this year.

The 47th annual commencement ceremony was still held, but it was conducted in a virtual format as people from across the world tuned in to watch the event on their televisions and mobile devices as it was livestreamed and broadcast on News Channel Nebraska.

Northeast President Dr. Leah Barrett acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic was responsible for the virtual ceremony this year.

“I know this occasion is bittersweet for our graduates, as many of you would rather be honored in person for this outstanding accomplishment. I wish we were together today also,” Barrett said. “In respect of the health and safety of you, your families, and our College community members, we had to make this decision.”

This was Barrett’s first commencement at Northeast after joining the institution in January. She promised each graduate that they will have the opportunity to be recognized in person in the future.

“Today I make a promise to you. You are welcome to join any future commencement ceremony so you can walk across the stage to the cheers and applause of your friends and loved ones. Until that can take place in person, be assured that today there are hundreds of people, including the Northeast faculty and staff watching and cheering from their homes in your honor.”

Barrett said society will be different following the pandemic. She told graduates that they will be critical in helping America rebound from the crisis.

“It is our hope that small businesses will return, our farms will continue to operate, and we will all continue to embrace the importance of our families. You are ready for all these opportunities,” she said. “The awards presented to you today demonstrate your resolution to succeed and obtain a degree or credential in your chosen profession. Your investment in your education will return tremendous dividends back to you as you use your skillsets locally, nationally or internationally.”

Barrett said the road ahead will be challenging, but everyone needs to come together for the benefit of families, communities, the nation and the world. 

“Let us take the lessons of working alone together and turn them into a greater good in making the world a better place than it was before the pandemic.”

Adam Peterson, speech and theatre instructor, gave the faculty address. He spoke of the resilience of those who are considered members of the Greatest Generation, which was forged by the trials of the Great Depression and World War II. 

“Why see challenges as opportunities,” Peterson asked. “Because every challenge can lead you to a solution that you may never have come to before. It’s an opportunity to improve the world which we all share. Help make sure that as our world comes back together, we don’t just go back to normal. We go back to better.”

Peterson said there will always be challenges, but how one deals with them will define them.

“It will determine your place in the story. Every time humanity has faced a crisis, a better world has emerged because of people like you,” he said. So, get out there. Put that education to use. Be Brave. Be Bold. Be the next Greatest Generation.”

In his student address, Colton Kastning, Ponca, congratulated his classmates for completing their education at this time in their lives.  

Through these unprecedented times, we were all thrown a curveball on finishing our degrees. We have witnessed hard times and are still feeling the impact of this pandemic,” he said. “Let us seek light and perspective from this. Let it teach us something about not only what is going on in the world today, but how we will become better people because of the circumstances we are dealt.”

As a non-traditional student, Kastning said he has valued his education from Northeast. 

“I may be biased, but I believe we have the best faculty to teach and give us the tools to be successful in the future. Northeast Community College’s staff do go above and beyond. I’m not just saying that. I mean it, and I encourage future students to look at Northeast Community College to see what they offer. Northeast is an incredible value.” 

Kastning was awarded an Associate of Arts Degree in Business Administration and graduated with highest honors. He is also a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society.

Instead of the traditional walk across a stage to accept their diplomas, each graduate was featured during a slide show following the commencement speeches.

This year, some 891 Northeast Community College students, including those earning more than one degree, and 220 who completed their studies this past summer and fall, were listed in the commencement program. The 891 students earned 983 degrees; 59 students earned two degrees, 12 earned three degrees, and three earned four degrees.

The virtual ceremony was produced by Fatt Sunnie Media Arts Studio of Norfolk. Its owner is Benjamin Viergutz, a graduate of Northeast Community College. The ceremony was co-produced by Brian Anderson, Northeast media arts – broadcasting instructor.

The ceremony may be viewed online at




                                                       PHOTO CUTLINE

Dr. Leah Barrett, president of Northeast Community College, speaks during the College’s 47th Commencement Ceremony on Saturday. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremony was broadcast virtually through a livestream and on News Channel Nebraska from Northeast’s broadcasting studio in Norfolk. Approximately 891 students who earned 983 degrees; 59 students who earned two degrees, 12 who earned three degrees, and three who earned four degrees were recognized.