STEUBENVILLE - It is all about family for a grandmother and her granddaughter and a father and son who will be receiving their diplomas this morning at the Eastern Gateway Community College commencement exercises.
Sherry Petteway took her first class at the college in 1994.
Today she is set to graduate with an associate degree of applied studies.
A FATHER AND SON – Michael Jay Clark Sr. and Michael Jay Clark Jr. were set to graduate together during ceremonies today at Eastern Gateway Community College. The father and son said they are excited to be completing their associate degrees and plan to pursue bachelor degrees in the future. - Dave Gossett
Petteway will be walking across the stage shortly after her granddaughter receives her Licensed Practical Nursing degree.
"I started taking secretarial classes and the college switched me to social services classes they developed for me. I wanted to follow in my mother's footsteps who had taken law classes and then worked for 21 years as a secretary for the United Steelworkers Local 1190," explained Petteway.
"I was working full time and could only take one class at a time. Then I was enrolled in the Appalachian Leadership Academy that took me to different areas of Appalachia. That meant putting off taking classes for awhile," continued Petteway.
"Sure I got discouraged at times but I didn't want to quit. I just kept pushing. I persevered, struggled and prayed," said Petteway.
"I remember when I found out I had enough credits to graduate. I wanted to do somersaults out of the door because I was so excited. I felt like I had reached an impossible goal," recalled the 1968 Steubenville High School graduate.
"And I really appreciate all of the support I have received from my family and my co-workers at the Jefferson County Community Action Council. They all helped make this possible," Petteway said.
"But as excited as I am about my degree, I am so very proud of this child. She has also struggled but pursued her goal and finished with very good grades and a degree," said Petteway.
Megan Panyi will be sitting near her grandmother today waiting to receive her Licensed Practical Nurse degree.
"I am a single mother with three kids and at times it was tough. Some days it felt like it was all too much for me, but I never felt like I couldn't do this," said Panyi.
The toughest class for Panyi was pharmacology.
"Learning all of the drugs and what they can do was hard," laughed Panyi.
"And after I graduate from Eastern Gateway Community College and find a job I want to start working on becoming a registered nurse," Panyi noted.
"I am excited. I might even cry. I am not a crying person but this graduation with my grandmother might make me cry. "This graduation means more to me because I am graduating with my grandmother. She is special to me," Panyi commented.
"We may have a family dinner to celebrate at some point. And Megan will be there with me," promised Petteway.
In the case of Michael Jay Clark Sr. and Michael Jay Clark Jr. it will be the son receiving his AAS law enforcement degree first.
"If they go by alphabetical order he will be first," smile the elder Clark.
This is Michael Sr.'s second graduation from Eastern Gateway.
"I received an electrical degree in 2003. I wanted more education so I checked into taking more classes here. That's when I signed up for an electromechanical degree and found out most of the classes I took the first time could be credited to this degree," said Michael Sr.
He currently works as an electrician through the local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union hall, and on Monday the older Clark will start as an intern at the ArcelorMittal Weirton plant in the future steelworkers program.
"I only had one tough class and that was physics. It demanded more of my time. I waited until the end to take it," laughed Michael Sr.
"With two degrees I feel like I should have a bachelor's degree. But that is my next step. I will probably study business administration because I want to eventually go into management," said the 1984 Jefferson Union High School graduate.
And based on advice from his father, Michael Jr. signed up for classes at EGCC after graduating from Brooke High School.
"I felt it is a good college. It is close to home and it fits everyone's schedule. It is an ideal school," said Michael Sr.
His son wants a career in law enforcement. But ironically he was unable to sign up for police entrance exams in Steubenville and Weirton because they are both set for this morning when he will be graduating.
"I hope to find a job as a police officer. And then down the road I would like to pursue a bachelor's degree in law enforcement classes," said Michael Jr.
"My toughest classes were probably the mace and Taser classes. But they give you a little video to keep and to relive those exciting moments when you are maced or tasered," smiled Michael Jr.
"I'm not sure how I feel at this point. I guess I will feel excited when I walk across the stage. It will be a little more exciting knowing my father will be right behind me," according to Michael Jr.
"The good thing is I will have an associate degree and will be looking for a job in law enforcement," he added.
Chief executive officer of NiSource Inc.'s gas distribution segment, Joseph Hamrock, was scheduled to address the graduates, family and friends as well as college faculty and staff.
Graduation ceremonies were to be held today under a massive tent in the school's John Scott Highway parking lot.
Also to be honored during commencement was retiring professor Bernard Levite, who ended his 39 years at the college after teaching in the business technologies division.