Growth and change were on the minds of the 630 students who stood on stage in Spartan Hall at Cayuga Community College Sunday afternoon as they prepared to take the next step of their lives.

This year's graduating class was 65 percent female and 35 percent male, ranging in age from 17 to 63. Forty-four percent of the graduates are Cayuga County residents, 37 percent are from Oswego County and 8 percent from Onondaga County. Out-of-state graduates came from California, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Arizona, Florida and Canada.

“We know that you have grown and matured here,” CCC President Daniel Larson said. “You are more motivated and self-directed, and you have met enormous challenges. We are pleased to have been part of that journey.”

The class of 2013 also heard from two of their fellow graduates.

“Each stage is valuable, but temporary,” said graduate Catherine Faith Fanning. “As in nature, so it is in our lives: we all started at Cayuga backed by our life experiences, having a certain image of what we wanted college to be like and an idea of what we would accomplish.

"During our time here our thinking has been challenged, tested, and stretched; we have been offered new experiences, new ideas, new opportunities, and in the end we have grown."

Fanning was one of two graduating students to deliver a commencement address during Sunday's ceremony. Fanning and Brian Knapp, a 2005 graduate of Union Springs Central High School and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, both spoke as SUNY Chancellor Award for Student Excellence recipients.

Fanning graduated with an associate’s degree in liberal arts: humanities and social science. In the fall, she will enroll at Hobart and William Smith Colleges as a double major in English and writing and rhetoric.

"With this I am reminded how precious every moment is and how each has a purpose," she said. "Today each of us will leave this place having made an accomplishment, prepared to move on to the next seasons in our lives. As you take your next step bare in mind the temperance of life: take advantage of every moment God has given you, aim to be your fullest potential, because in a life of constant change each moment matters for a greater purpose."

Knapp graduated with an associate’s degree in geographic information systems and plans to begin in his new position as veterans outreach coordinator with U.S. Rep. Dan Maffei’s Office.

“My life changed forever on Aug. 4, 2008, just nine days before my 21st birthday, while driving a ground mobility vehicle," he said. "I drove over an improvised explosive device hidden in the dusty dirt road. I sustained a mild traumatic brain injury from the blast and a multitude of other injuries. I knew when transitioning back to college I wanted to connect with other veterans.

When he came to CCC, Knapp noticed there was no veteran organization representing students such as himself at the college. Within two weeks, with the help of other veterans, he helped establish such a service.

"I will leave you with two things that get me through life," he said. "Don’t worry about things that are out of your control, after all you can’t change them. And lastly, live life to its fullest, you only get one shot so be productive.”

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