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Spring and summer graduates honored at weekend ceremonies

September 21, 2020

About 400 University of North Georgia (UNG) spring and summer graduates and their families celebrated their accomplishments in a series of small commencement ceremonies held Sept. 19-20. The carefully planned events were spaced out over two days with limited guests to facilitate social distancing to adhere to COVID-19 public health guidelines and state parameters on gatherings.

The long-awaited ceremonies brought smiles and relief at the Convocation Center on UNG's Dahlonega Campus. A trio of outdoor ceremonies had been planned for Sept. 18 on the Gen. William "Lipp" Livsey Drill Field, but events were moved indoors due to inclement weather.

"Our staff planned and executed these events creatively and meticulously to ensure our graduates and their families had a meaningful celebration in a safe environment," Dr. Kate Maine, UNG vice president of university relations and chief of staff, said. "While these were unconventional commencement events, we are very pleased that UNG was able to honor our recent graduates with a personalized experience."

UNG awarded more than 2,100 degrees and certificates for the spring and summer semesters.

Claire Allinson, who earned mathematics and accounting degrees in May and had volunteered at previous commencement ceremonies, knew she wanted to participate in her own graduation. Allinson was thrilled the ceremony was still held amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"You've worked so hard, and you get a whole day to let your family celebrate you," Allinson said. "It's passing from being a college student to an adult in the real world."

The Lilburn, Georgia, native was active on campus through her work with Outdoor Pursuits and as an orientation leader.

Octavio Aguado, who earned a biology degree in May, was determined to partake in commencement in whatever form it took.

"I wanted to celebrate with my parents. My parents have been a big part of my journey," Aguado said. "This was a way to see everybody in a safe way during the pandemic."

Aguado started a master's degree program in higher education leadership this fall at Valdosta State University.

For Kacee Criddle, a mother of four, the ceremony capped a long journey during which she overcame obstacles to earn an associate degree in the sociology pathway.

"It's that final reward of the effort you've put in," Criddle said. "It means everything to me. It makes me so proud to do that."

Criddle hopes to use her degree to be an advocate for patients or abuse victims.

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