Graduation is a time to look back at all you have accomplished and look forward to the future. However, the graduation ceremony itself is a moment you will always remember with your family and friends.
On Saturday, February 23, at 4 p.m., Forsyth Technical Community College held a special graduation ceremony at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church in Clemmons for Brianna Riazzi in front of her family and friends. It was also live-streamed to the home of her mother, Tracy, and father, Mike.
Warren Hodges, Brianna Riazzi and Bill Green during her graduation ceremony.
Brianna has been a student at Forsyth Tech since her mother, Tracy, was diagnosed with a terminal illness seven years ago.
“It was important for Tracy to see Brianna graduate…and she did,” said Jennifer Markland, team manager for Trellis Supportive Care.
The ceremony was originally planned to take place at the Riazzi’s home. However, as the plans developed, more people wanted to share this day with Brianna. Brianna’s supervisor, April Chapel (also participated in the ceremony) said, “We discussed having the ceremony at our law firm, Craige, Jenkins, Liipffert & Walker but the office space wasn’t adaptable.” Then April offered to have the event at her church, St. Clement’s, and the parish staff agreed.
The event was coordinated in less than a week with the help of the staff at Trellis, the employees at Brianna’s law firm and many staff and faculty at Forsyth Tech.
Warren Hodges, department chair of paralegal technology, took the lead at Forsyth Tech to coordinate the event, as Brianna is in the paralegal technology program. Everyone he contacted agreed to help. “I believe together we did a good thing”. He conferred her degree and following the ceremony, he and Brianna threw their mortar boards in the air to celebrate.
Staff from Forsyth Tech that coordinated the event: Sherri Bowen, executive director administration and board liaison; Dawn Mitchell, senior administrative associate to the president; and Martha Stahl, faculty staff services supervisor; created the programs by crafting a new, one-off official commencement ceremony document. Gwen Whitaker, director, records/registrar; prepared an official degree and provided the degree folder, as well as a cap and gown to fit Brianna. Bill Green, vice president of community engagement/executive director of the Foundation; opened the event, welcomed all, and introduced Mark Davidson, deacon from St. Clement’s; who offered an invocation. Jenny Terry, graphic design specialist, took the photos. Pamela Shortt, dean of business and information technologies division, sent the flowers for Brianna to hold walking up the aisle.
Also present from Forsyth Tech were Jessica Long, director, career services; Dr. Alan Murdock, vice president, economic workforce division; and Philip Slater, accounting instructor.
When asked about how she felt about the day, Brianna said she felt “…blessed that so many people would pull together and make this happen.”
Brianna will complete her associate degree in Paralegal Technology and will officially graduate with her peers in May. Saturday, she graduated for her mom and dad.