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Three graduates in cap and gown jumping in the air

DREAMS FULFILLED - Commencement 2014

May 17, 2014 - | 11:06 AM -

SKYCTC graduates lauded at SKyPAC; Neal installed as president

- By CHUCK MASON The Daily News

 Female graduate walking to her seat
 Heather Mattox of Bowling Green stands with her
classmates after receiving her diploma Friday,
May 16, 2014, at the Southcentral Kentucky
Community and Technical College commencement
ceremony at the Southern Kentucky Performing
Arts Center. (Miranda Pederson/Daily News)
Heather Mattox of Bowling Green graduated with her son Friday from Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College.

Unlike mom’s new associate’s degree, her son is still a work in progress.

Kayson, her yet-to-be-born son, accompanied Mattox as she walked across the stage in cap and gown at the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center.

Mattox was among SKYCTC’s scheduled 493 graduates receiving 2,181 credentials at the college’s commencement. SKyPAC was filled to the brim, with many onlookers standing behind the filled seats in the top balcony.

Mattox received her associate’s degree in office systems technology. Her 4-year-old daughter Kinsley; husband Markus; parents Sharon and Billy Claywell; and grandparents Jimmy and Peggy Claywell were expected in the audience. “I can tell him – Kayson – that he graduated with me,” Mattox said before the ceremony.

The commencement also marked the installation of Phillip Neal as the technical college’s third president.

 College president at graduation
 Phillip Neal (left) is installed as the technical
college's third president by Michael McCall,
president and chief executive officer of the
Kentucky Community and Technical College
System, during commencement Friday,
May 16, 2014, at the Southern Kentucky
Performing Arts Center.
(Miranda Pederson/Daily News)
Performing the installation was Michael McCall, president and chief executive officer of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.

Neal’s voice broke as he talked about his parents, Ron and Brenda, who were in the audience, calling his mom, “my quiet strength.”

Neal called the installation “the professional highlight of my life,” adding that just like the graduates, he too, was embarking on a new beginning. Neal has been serving as college president for about a year, coming to Bowling Green six years ago.

The road to Mattox’s degree took longer than anticipated, about four years, she said before the ceremony.

“I got pregnant right as I started to college,” said the 24-year-old, who lives near Barren River State Park outside Glasgow. “It’s gone really well. My husband and my little girl have been right there beside me.”

Mattox is an office clerk-receptionist for T.J. Health Partners in Glasgow and said she loves her job. “I love working with the computers and checking in the patients,” she said.

Narmin Aliyeva’s journey to her degree in office systems technology began in 2009 and included two trips from Bowling Green to her homeland in Baku, Azerbaijan, nestled along the Caspian Sea. “My college experience was really great. I appreciated all my teachers,” said the 28-year-old Aliyeva. She was married in 2012 in Azerbaijan.

 Graduates moving their tassels
 Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical
College's scheduled 493 graduates move their
tassels Friday, May 16, 2014, at the Southcentral
Kentucky Community and Technical College
commencement ceremony at the Southern
Kentucky Performing Arts Center.
(Miranda Pederson/Daily News)
Tina Vaughn also picked up a degree in office systems technology. Her college odyssey began in 1999 at Western Kentucky University, then was put on the shelf when she found herself with two jobs and two young children.

In 2010, Vaughn’s daughter, Amy, received a degree from the technical college, and after retiring from Wal-Mart following a 22-year career in human resources, Vaughn started school again, this time at Bowling Green Technical College in 2011. Her younger daughter, Amber, could be walking across the stage next year for SKYCTC. Vaughn works with human resources at Stewart-Richey Construction in Bowling Green.

Her four grandchildren got to see their grandmother graduate Friday, along with her mom and stepdad, Linda Vaughn and Larry Finn.

“This has been a dream of mine for as long as I could remember,” she said.

Neal said SKYCTC exists to help bring a better quality of life for Friday’s graduates and their families. “Education is a bridge,” he said. “College is not a destination,” he said, but rather a pathway to a brighter future. “As educators, building bridges is our mission.”