BRCC graduates 440 students

Graduates at Baton Rouge Community College’s commencement ceremony Friday were encouraged to envision what they want Louisiana to look like in the future and then use their talents to help make that vision happen.

Pam Breaux, assistant secretary for the state’s Office of Cultural Development, spoke about Louisiana’s place in history as the birthplace of jazz, the state’s unique and authentic culture and its reputation for producing trailblazers, including Louis Armstrong and Madame C.J. Walker, who is believed to be the country’s first self-made female millionaire.

“Many of our people have changed the world greatly and for the better,” Breaux told BRCC’s 440 graduates. “The direction Louisiana goes from here is up to us.”

A good part of Breaux’s address was about so-called “ordinary people” who do extraordinary things. She told the graduates they are at the unique juncture in their lives where they’ve made it over the hump and have checked off an important goal by finishing school.

But, she said, they are staring down a number of new challenges in front of them as they build careers for themselves.

This is about “ordinary people capitalizing on an important moment of your lives,” she said. “

Breaux explained that the graduates need to use their talents not only to support their families, but their communities as well.

“Build the Louisiana we all want to see and live in. People in all fields can play a part in making their community better,” Breaux said. “From nursing ... to film production, do what you know and do what you love ... use your talents.”

In holding its 14th graduation ceremony, BRCC and other community and technical colleges around the state are filling the role that Gov. Bobby Jindal and Louisiana Community Technical College System President Joe May envision for the state — producing enough skilled graduates to meet Louisiana’s growing workforce demands.

May often says he doesn’t want to compete with four-year schools, but rather wants people to see that there is more than one way to land a good-paying job.

He has said close to 9 percent of students who earn an associate degree out-earn university graduates in the first several years after graduation.

May has said his mother raised him with the expectation that he would get a degree from a four-year school. The logic, he said, was that everything would work out in the end if you have a baccalaureate degree.

“It worked out well for me, but that’s not the only way,” May said.