Storms can't stop St. Aug's graduation celebrations

Posted May 1, 2011 2:31 p.m. EDT
Updated May 2, 2011 12:35 a.m. EDT

— St. Augustine's College seniors said they wouldn't be stopped from graduating Sunday, a little more than two weeks after a tornado tore through the campus during the worst tornado outbreak in state history.

"It looked like something right out of a twister movie – the power lines down, trees ripped out of the ground," graduate Antonio Fitzgerald said. "It was something to see."

The April 16 storms uprooted trees and damaged buildings on campus. Thanks to a quick cleanup, students missed only one day of class.

Some student's questioned the decision to not end the semester early, but senior Takika Harris said she was glad to continue on the path to graduation.

"We aren't quitters," Harris said. "We're going to do what we have to do to finish out the semester, and we did that."

On Sunday, Harris was among 249 seniors to receive their diplomas in a graduation ceremony on campus.

"Just two weeks ago, this quadrangle was completely covered with the aftermath of the tornado. The campus was in upheaval," College President Dianne Boardley Suber said. "The St. Aug family rallied in a way that shows the legacy of this institution."

Marine Maj. General Ronald Bailey used the commencement address to urge students to be prepared to deal with sudden challenges in life.

"The road to success is always under construction, so lead the charge. The nation needs great leaders, so understand your strengths," Bailey said.

Graduates said the experience of coping after the storms has taught them just that.

"That test right there – there's going to be tests like that out in the real world," Fitzgerald said.

"It just shows you have to be prepared, for one, and be able to get through any circumstance by any means," graduate Kendra Sharp said.