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ACTC graduates bask in adulation of peers, family

ASHLAND, Ky. — This past weekend may not end up being the best two days in Lacey Lockwood’s life. But it sure came close.

Saturday morning the Ironton woman walked across the stage of the Paramount Arts Center to get her diploma in respiratory care from Ashland Community and Technical College. Now the Green High graduate is hoping for a job at one of the area’s biggest employers, King’s Daughters Medical Center, as a respiratory therapist.

If meeting the goals of that program were not enough of a triumph and joy, Lockwood came to her graduation with something more to celebrate.

The night before she got engaged to Zach Lester of Cannonsburg.

“I have all those emotions coming through,” she said as she walked toward the arts center donned in her white gown and cap. “I will miss my friends. Everything has been great.”

Something else she was missing was her engagement ring, which she left at home for fear she might lose it during the rush of the event.

For about an hour before the ceremony graduates walked up and down Winchester Avenue looking for the name of their program from the signs posted around the Paramount lot to make sure they would march in with their classmates.

Jeanette Wyrick of Rush was killing time before the program talking to her family and posing for the requisite snapshots. Draped around her neck was the gold stole of Phi Kappa Theta signifying that Wyrick was a member of the National Honor Society.

“I feel good,” she said. “My mom is in town. My boyfriend is here. My kids are here. I feel great.”

Armed with associate degrees in arts and science Wyrick’s next step is to head for Morehead State University where she will major in accounting.

Chris Lynch of Ashland is following the family profession becoming another generation of electricians.

He plans to work for Veolia Industrial Services as an industrial electrician at a power plant or refinery. But his mind wasn’t as much on his long-term future as his immediate one.

“I’m ready for the graduation party,” Lynch said. “After putting in all this time, a graduation party sounds good.”

Jason Carter of New Boston came to the college to study criminal justice so he could further his career as a corrections officer at the Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility in Franklin Furnace.

“I’m glad it is over, but with juggling a family and a career, ACTC was the best choice for me,” Carter said. “Being a non-traditional student, they keep an open schedule.”

Marcus Stallo of Chesapeake plans to take his two-year degree in electrical technology and head for the job market.

But he also expects to go on for a four-year degree later on. Right now, he is sending out resumes.

“I’m happy and excited,” he said about graduating and planned to have a celebratory lunch at Texas Roadhouse with his family after the ceremony.

It was her cap that did the talking for Sonja Gable of Rush as she waited to get her associates in arts and sciences focusing on human services and counseling. Pinned on the top of her cap was the sign, “I Did It.”

Gable is the first generation in her family to earn a college degree, which she had had to postpone until she had her children raised.

“Then I got student loans and finished my dream,” she said.

Her goal is to get a four-year degree to train to become a counselor. She admitted to some nerves Saturday morning, but was happy that she went to ACTC as what she termed “an older student.”

“I tried to be a role model for my nieces and my kids,” she said.