Georgia Highlands College’s class of 2020 endured the effects of a pandemic as they successfully navigated a path to graduation last year. To further emphasize their success and to finally hold an in-person event after their virtual 2020 graduation, GHC held a special celebration on the Cartersville site recently.
The event, which included cap and gown photos, a selfie station and refreshments, allowed graduates like Joseph Cheriyampurathu, of Rome, to catch up with some familiar faces.
“Although I graduated last year, I wanted to come out and see how my former classmates are doing,” Cheriyampurathu said.
Attending classes at GHC’s Rome site, Cheriyampurathu graduated from GHC with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Healthcare Management. In December 2020, he began working as the Region 1 Transportation Specialist for Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS).
As Transportation Specialist, some of his responsibilities include coordinating transportation efforts for senior citizens to various activities.
“I’ve always been the type of person who wants to try and help somebody,” Cheriyampurathu. “Everyone in my family works in the medical field, and I wanted to do something similar.”
Relocating to the U.S. from India in 2011, Cheriyampurathu said his classes at GHC, along with engagement with his classmates, helped prepare him for his role at DHS.
For Emily Van Kleef, of Rome, the Class of 2020 Celebration was an opportunity for her and her family to not only celebrate her accomplishment of earning an Associate Degree in Psychology, but also her high school graduation, which was held last year in a drive-through format. As the 2020 valedictorian of Coosa High School, Van Kleef participated in the Dual Enrollment program, allowing her to graduate from high school while also earning a degree from GHC.
“We wanted to come out today to try and give her something back that she missed last year,” her father, Will Van Kleef, said.
Although the past year presented challenges, Van Kleef said she was glad to have had an early start by gaining her associate degree while still in high school.
“Last year was interesting, but the college made it very easy to transfer any of my on-site classes to online classes,” Van Kleef said.
Van Kleef is currently enrolled at Kennesaw State University and is pursuing a double major in Psychology and Criminal Justice.