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Families begin Commencement celebrations at Graduate Reception

Cloudy skies and persistent rain could not dampen thousands of bright spirits on the campus of Liberty University as its 44th Commencement weekend began. Families began pouring in Friday morning for check-in and in the afternoon were treated to cake, ice cream, popcorn, and other snacks during the annual Graduate Reception. The event was planned for the Academic Lawn, but was moved to the LaHaye Multipurpose Center due to the weather.

Moms and dads beamed with pride as their children tried on their stoles and chords. Friends reminisced about their time on campus. Couples embraced, taking in the moment before they open the next chapter of their lives.

Some graduates were stepping onto campus for the first time. Of Liberty’s more than 18,000 graduates, 85 percent earned their degree online. Lauren Ribest, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education Interdisciplinary Studies, came from Canada with her family to celebrate Commencement. It was her first trip to Lynchburg.

“I am so excited to be here, to spend time visiting campus for the first time,” she said. “It has been awesome to see everything and take it all in. I am really looking forward to seeing everyone and the happiness this graduation brings.”

Chaundra Creekmur was relieved to arrive on campus from Georgia with her husband, also a Liberty graduate, and their three children. She is earning her Doctor of Education.

“This is my last time graduating; this is the big one,” she said. “It was a lot of hard work (but) it is worth it in the end.”

Knowing her family will be in the crowd will make the moment more special, she said.

“You have to lead by example (for your children). And now that the work is done, it is all about the tradition — you finish, you walk, you turn the tassel. I am looking forward to the official, ‘I did it.’”

Graduation may mark the end of a rigorous journey, but School of Aeronautics graduate Joseph Boccarossa said he thinks of it as a “stepping-off point.”

“When you complete your degree, it is not the end, it’s only the beginning,” he said. “I am looking forward to hearing my name called and having all my teachers there. I am looking forward to having my family (from Connecticut) and my girlfriend there with me. They get to see the smile on my face as they experience it with me. We are all very close-knit and knowing they are here is another showing of how much they care and how excited they are about the future that I have.”

Commencement begins at 10 a.m. Saturday inside Williams Stadium, with President Donald Trump set to deliver the keynote address. 

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