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NPRC Celebrates Second Annual Commencement; Grateful for First In-Person Ceremony

Northern Pennsylvania Regional College celebrated the second commencement in the college’s history on Saturday, May 21 at 2:00 p.m. The ceremony took place at The Dam Inn in Wilcox, with 10 graduates receiving their diplomas. Three students graduated in absentia. Guests included NPRC faculty and staff, family members and friends of the graduates, representatives from institutional partnerships, and Pennsylvania State Senator Cris Dush.

The ceremony began with a welcome from Sherrie Falck, one of the ten students who received their diploma on Saturday. Before the ceremony, Falck shared some thoughts on what this accomplishment as a college graduate means to her. 

“It still feels very surreal that it’s here, but it is such a great accomplishment,” she said. 

Falck welcomed attendees before introducing Assistant Director of Student Engagement, Dannielle Fickenworth, to the stage for the singing of the “Star-Spangled Banner.” 

After those in attendance paid homage to our country, NPRC President, Susan Snelick, addressed the students.

“To all those who are receiving degrees or certificates today, I offer a special welcome. It is my honor as your president to recognize your achievements and celebrate you as you embark on the next stage of your journey. 

 You all have worked hard to achieve your success, and I know it hasn’t always been easy. This is your moment. Today is about you and the opportunity to celebrate your accomplishments.” 

President Snelick concluded by welcoming Lily Morse, a Fall 2021 NPRC graduate, to the stage to serve as the ceremony’s student speaker. A business administration graduate, Morse was one of seven graduates who graduated with honors on Saturday. Morse’s hard work at NPRC helped her begin her four-year degree at Clarion University after all her credits from Northern Pennsylvania Regional College successfully transferred. Morse started her career at Tidioute Community Charter School as the school’s Business Manager. 

“I’m very excited to be the speaker today,” Morse said prior to the ceremony. “I actually wrote the speech a long time ago before they even chose me. I love NPRC and I am always going to have a soft spot for NPRC.” 

Morse began her speech by thanking her family, friends, and classmates and acknowledging just how great of an experience she had as an NPRC student. She thanked two NPRC staff and faculty members, Dannielle Fickenworth and Ben Blood, for being by her side and affecting her life the most in her educational journey over her two years. 

“This all would not have been possible without the help of my SSS (Student Success Specialist), Dannielle. I graduated from high school, took a year off, and then had no idea what I wanted to do.

Right when I was sitting there thinking it was too late, Dannielle came swooping in with her Facebook posts about NPRC.

Dannielle has been one of the most helpful people throughout my college experience. She has put so much time and effort into me, and I just want to thank her from the bottom of my heart. No matter the day or time, she was (and still is) always there to help.” 

Morse also gave thanks to all NPRC’s professors, who made her experience such a positive one, but especially thanked Mr. Blood, the Director of Arts and Sciences. 

“Mr. Blood is the kindest, most dedicated professor I have had the pleasure of having. Not to mention, he has a way of teaching that makes things just click.

Not only did Mr. Blood teach me how to be an outstanding writer and how to survive college, most importantly, he believed in me.” 

After Morse’s speech, she welcomed the Board of Trustees Chairperson, Kate Brock, to introduce Commencement Speaker, John Schlimm. A talented author, educator, artist, and advocate, the Elk County native has written several works that have been internationally recognized, with appearances on national media outlets like the Ellen DeGeneres Show, the Hallmark Channel, QVC, and NPR. 

Schlimm’s speech titled, “Rise From There,” addressed topics such as NPRC’s unique approach to education, his background in education, living an authentic life, Generation Z, and overcoming mental health struggles. His speech concluded with an inspiring message to not just the graduates, but to everyone in the room. 

“I wish the same for you when you encounter fear or the unknown. Or when the wild tassel of life comes for you. Please greet it face-to-face, and then use it as fuel to raise yourself to a new and better place. And even use it as an opportunity to not take yourself so seriously all the time. I promise you that the better place is always waiting for your arrival and it’s always worth the often-bumpy ride to get there.” 

After the Commencement Speaker address, NPRC Faculty and Staff members Ben Blood on guitar, Regina Russell on cello, and Frank O’Connell on guitar, performed a musical interlude titled “Time of Our Lives.” 

This all led up to the most important moment of the afternoon, students walking across the stage and being declared college graduates. These ten students include: 

Associate of Arts 

Sherrie Falck (Elk County), Social Sciences 

Karen Klos (Warren County), Liberal Studies 

Associate of Science 

Samantha Dubrawka (Forest County), Business Administration 

Connor Gausman (Elk County), Criminal Justice 

Benjamin Huey (Elk County), Business Administration 

Zachary Kick (Warren County), Business Administration 

Lily Morse (Warren County), Business Administration 

River Shelander (Elk County), Criminal Justice 

Allison Snell (Warren County), Business Administration 

Katherine Wells (Forest County), Business Administration

Students graduating in absentia include Jessica Blank (Crawford County) and Jessica Kilmer (Mercer County) earning their Certificate Degree in General Studies. 

President Snelick declared students to move their tassels from right to left, signaling the students were officially Northern Pennsylvania Regional College alumni. In closing, Connor Gausman delivered final remarks.

An emotional Gausman thanked his family, friends, and especially his mom, who had been there by his side throughout his time as an NPRC student. Gausman invited attendees to celebrate and gather after the ceremony for a casual reception and hors d’oeuvre prepared by the staff of The Dam Inn.

This past weekend marked a first for NPRC with an in-person commencement ceremony. With the hard work of the NPRC Commencement Committee, the College successfully hosted an occasion that these 10 NPRC alumni and families will always remember. We look forward to many more celebrations and graduations with our communities and students.