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Fall commencement ceremonies set for Dec. 16, 17

Fall commencement ceremonies set for Dec. 16, 17

(Dec. 5, 2016) - On Dec. 16 and 17, the University of North Georgia (UNG) will host three commencement ceremonies to celebrate the students and families of the fall 2016 graduating class.

The ceremonies will also feature encouragement and inspiration from several speakers, including: David Araya and Angela Hurtado, UNG alumni and founders of the Hispanic high school organization HoPE; Greg Blount, a UNG alumnus and a partner in the environmental and natural resources practice at Troutman Sanders; and Dr. Jeff Bearden, superintendent of Forsyth County Schools.

The first ceremony will be held 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 16, on UNG's Gainesville Campus in the Hugh Mills Physical Education Complex. The ceremony, which will honor associate degree graduates from all campuses and all Gainesville- and Oconee-based graduates earning bachelor's degrees, will welcome Araya and Hurtado as featured speakers.

Araya and Hurtado founded HoPe – Hispanic Organization Promoting Education – to increase the graduation rate among Hispanic high school students through leadership, education and community service. The HoPe Leadership Chapters have reached a 100 percent graduation rate among all their members.

HoPE enables high school students to have the necessary resources and opportunities available to apply for college, obtain scholarships and be a community leader in the process. HoPe serves 34 high schools across 12 school districts in Georgia and is the largest Hispanic high school student organization in Georgia and the Southeast.

On Saturday, Dec. 17, a ceremony honoring Dahlonega- and Cumming-based graduates of the College of Health Sciences & Professions, College of Science & Mathematics, and Mike Cottrell College of Business will be held on the Dahlonega Campus at 1 p.m. The ceremony will take place in the Memorial Hall Gymnasium, and will feature Blount as commencement speaker.

Blount is a leading environmental attorney, and has represented clients in matters related to environmental law and policy for more than 30 years, including related civil litigation and enforcement issues in state and federal courts. His early experience as both a state assistant attorney general and general counsel to Georgia's Department of Natural Resources helped him understand the perspectives and objectives of both the regulator and the regulated.

His involvement with local governments includes representation and advice on water supply issues, including the multidistrict litigation involved in the water-use conflict between Georgia, Alabama and Florida. His representation of business clients has successfully addressed issues arising in business transactions, including international trade and sustainability.

The final ceremony will also be held on Saturday, Dec. 17. This event will honor graduates of the College of Education, University College, and College of Arts & Letters, and will begin at 4 p.m. in the Memorial Hall Gymnasium on the Dahlonega Campus. Bearden will address graduates as the commencement speaker.

Forsyth County Schools is a system of 37 schools, containing more than 44,000 students and 4,500 staff. Bearden joined the system in 2014 and was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal to serve on the Governor's Education Advisory Board.

A school executive for more than 25 years, he previously served as superintendent of Rome City Schools and Fayette County Schools. A Georgia native and a third-generation veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Bearden holds bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Maine, and a doctorate in education from Nova Southeastern University.

Due to anticipated attendance, tickets are required for each ceremony. Students who have applied for fall graduation can pick up graduation packets, which include their designated amount of tickets, at their home campus bookstore the week before graduation. Graduates are instructed to read through all information and instructions given in the graduation packets, and should arrive 45 minutes prior to graduation to prepare and line-up for the ceremony. Graduates and guests should also allow extra time for traffic and parking when arriving for ceremonies. Those unable to attend the ceremonies in person can watch UNG's livestream via the university's official YouTube channel:

Graduates and guests also are asked to share their success via social media using #UNG16grad; posts and photos using the hashtag can be viewed before, during and after the weekend's ceremonies at

Also, there will be pre-commencement celebration events where students can pick up tickets for the ceremonies, receive complimentary t-shirts and refreshments, and get discounts on bookstore items such as diploma frames. For Gainesville and Oconee graduates, GRAD-BASH 2016 will be held Wednesday, Dec. 7, from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in the Robinson Ball Room on the Gainesville Campus.

For Dahlonega graduates, the Fall Graduate Event will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 6 and 7, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Starbucks upstairs lounge on the Dahlonega Campus.

To find more information about fall commencement, including details and instructions for graduates and guests, visit UNG's commencement website.

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