Columbus Air Force Base 14th Flying Training Wing Vice Commander Col. William Denham speaks to more than 700 seniors from Lowndes County schools Wednesday during Senior Sendoff held at East Mississippi Community College's Golden Triangle campus. The Columbus-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce Education Committee hosted the event. Photo by: Courtesy photo
May 4, 2019 10:00:35 PM
About 750 seniors from high schools in Lowndes County attended a Senior Sendoff Wednesday in the Lyceum Auditorium on East Mississippi Community College's Golden Triangle campus.
Students from Caledonia High School, Columbus Municipal School District, Golden Triangle Early College High School, Heritage Academy, Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, New Hope High School and West Lowndes High School attended the event sponsored by the Columbus-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce Education Committee.
Education Committee Chair Glenn Lautzenhiser credited CMSD Superintendent Cherie Labat, who sits on the committee, with the idea for the senior sendoff. He spoke to students about the power of education and encouraged them to become lifelong learners.
EMCC President Scott Alsobrooks told students that the 7 million unfilled jobs in the United States and 40,000 open positions in Mississippi represent an opportunity for the graduates as they plan for their future careers.
"Many of those jobs don't require a four-year degree and you can get the skills you need right here at EMCC," Alsobrooks said.
He spoke about the student debt crisis in the U.S. According to Forbes, more than 44 million student loan borrowers collectively owe more than $1.5 trillion.
"You can come to EMCC at a fair discount and get a very good education that leads to work or prepares you to transfer to a four-year university," Alsobrooks said. "We offer both options. You can save a lot of money and prepare to enter the world without a lot of debt."
Door prizes were handed out at the event in which MSMS student Samantha Anderson sang the national anthem and WCBI news anchor Aundrea Self introduced guest speakers.
Artesia resident Jay Little, an alumnus of West Lowndes High School who is about to graduate from the University of Alabama with an undergraduate degree in computer science, was the student speaker.
Keynote speaker for the event was Columbus Air Force Base 14th Flying Training Wing Vice Commander Col. William Denham. Denham told the high school seniors to expect obstacles and setbacks.
"You may have heard this maxim of Greek philosopher Heraclites but it bears repeating in this context," Denham said. "He said, 'Character is destiny.' Much of your character is going to be revealed when you are under fire. When you experience setbacks. When things are not going your way. You can answer today, 'What are you going to do when you experience those setbacks?' Are you going to dig down and keep going? You can decide today that you will.
"This is all to say that yes, life can be hard. But it does reward those who are persistent, consistent and resilient and those qualities take character."
Columbus-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce President Lisa James reminded students they will soon be among those who comprise the area's workforce.
"You will be our future employees and you will help build this community to greatness for generations to come," James said. "We just wanted to take today to say congratulations on everything you have accomplished so far. Good luck in the future and we look forward to seeing you in the workforce here in Lowndes County."