Thousands of people have traveled to Lynchburg for Liberty University’s graduation May 15. Here are just a few snapshots of what seniors and their families are doing.
|Amanda Sullivan, right, poses with her friends Liana Lagroon and Kristen Clark during their freshman year.|
Worth the drive
In the next week, senior Amanda Sullivan and her family will collectively travel nearly 4,000 miles – her parents are driving this week to Lynchburg from Houston for her graduation; Amanda is riding back with them Sunday to get some items from home then driving back to Lynchburg for a full-time job that begins May 24.
“The big drawback to Liberty [for us] is that it is located about seven states away,” said Amanda’s father, Michael Sullivan. But, he said, Amanda prayed about her school choices and a week before she was to start classes at Houston Baptist, she felt called to come to Liberty.
“What is a parent to do?” Michael said.
Michael and his wife, Stacy, who are both Liberty University Online students, are coming to Lynchburg for the first time since their initial visit five years ago. Since that time, Liberty has grown by thousands of students, added numerous buildings and greatly expanded its recreational opportunities.
“I sit in awe of God’s glory and blessings that he has bestowed upon Liberty,” Amanda said. “I feel a sense of pride, knowing that I got to witness the change. I’ve watched this university grow, and I am astonished at its success and am increasingly proud to soon call Liberty my alma mater.”
|Shaina Dillon, 19, arrives at Liberty with her parents, who are missionaries in Eastern Africa.|
Study at home or abroad
As a 19-year-old, Shaina Dillon is among the youngest of Liberty’s graduates. She and her parents arrived on campus this week for the first time, having drove from Marietta, Ga., and said they are very impressed with the campus.
Shaina is receiving her bachelor’s in criminal justice from LU Online on Saturday, and has already begun her master’s in management and leadership.
Warren, her father, said that he found LU Online to be a great blessing. “We really wanted to keep her close to home, so the online program was wonderful.”
While Shaina was working on her degree, the Dillons spent time serving as missionaries in Eastern Africa. Shaina was able to help them start an all-girls school while still taking classes.
“The online classes were great,” said Shaina. “I thought they would be a lot easier since they were online, but they were really challenging — which I didn’t expect from an online program.”
|Monica Hutton is joined by her parents and grandmother. She is receiving her master's in human services with Liberty University Online.|
The fast track
Monica Hutton, of McVeytown, Pa., finished her master’s in human services in just under a year.
“It was a long 11 months,” said Monica.
She drove down to Lynchburg this week with her parents, Patti and Mike, and her grandmother Miriam. While Monica had been on campus to take an intensive, this is the first visit for her family.
“I’m very impressed,” said Patti. “For a Christian university, Liberty has some major facilities.”
Monica will be walking on Saturday, but she still has one last paper to turn in to officially graduate. She said the professor realized that many of the students in the class have day jobs, so the deadline for the final paper was extended until the Wednesday after Commencement.
“The online classes were just as hard as if I had come to the campus to study. I wanted my master’s degree to be a good one, and it really was,” said Monica.
She liked that the online program allowed for her to be able to study while she worked an internship related to her field, and now feels prepared to start work as a drug and alcohol addiction counselor.
“I really do feel prepared. Even if I run into something that I don’t have the direct knowledge about, I know where to obtain it from here on out. I feel like I’m prepared to at least know where to start.”
Patti was able to watch her daughter as she went through the classes, since Monica is now doing a second internship where she works as a drug and alcohol counselor.
“I can see that she’s prepared. It's not that she's my daughter, obviously. I could tell that she was prepared to do it and that what she had learned was valuable.”
David Hylton and Marcelo Quarantotto contributed to this article.