Walk this way: Newest Eastern Florida grads include 4 moms whose kids earned degrees, too

700 graduates walked at school’s spring commencement ceremonies

Eastern Florida State College celebrated its spring commencement ceremony. (Tim Shortt/Florida Today)

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Amazing. Surreal.

Those were just a couple of the superlatives swirling in the air — along with mortarboards — as Eastern Florida State College graduates celebrated the school’s spring commencement ceremonies Thursday, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.

Ceremonies were conducted at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., with 350 graduates in each session and a packed house, as each graduate received four guest tickets. While 700 graduates walked, nearly 1,700 students are eligible to receive their diplomas this spring, EFSC officials said. To date, more than 106,000 individuals have earned a degree or workforce certificate from EFSC.

In a true moment of family unity and pride, graduates included four mothers who earned their degrees at the same time as their children. Traci McGough and her son, Elijah McGough; Dorothy Bowman and her son Dawson; and Niccole Patellis, her son, Christopher Patellis, and her daughter, Emma Dion; and Stephanie Rodriguez and her daughter, Mia Ferrell-Rodriguez.

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Amidst a sea of blue, the smiles didn’t stop for Titans of all ages at the 2 p.m. ceremony.

Niccole Patellis pronounced it “amazing” to graduate at the same time as did her children.

“It’s an awesome feeling to get my AA, and them get theirs as well,” she said, adding that she hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity. “And then we’ll all move on to continue our education after this.”

Christopher Patellis plans to head to University of Central Florida, where he’ll major in pre-med.

“It’s a surreal feeling, I guess that’s what to say ... it’s a lot of anxiety and excitement at the same time,” he said. “I’m kind of looking forward to what to do next.”

And Emma Dion, who like her brother is dual-enrolled at Merritt Island High School and Eastern Florida, will be going into the U.S. Army in August as an animal care specialist.

“It’s crazy,” she said. “It’s like it’s not real, that I would graduate with my mother and my brother; that we’d all get our degrees at the same time.”

In a special message to graduates, President Dr. Jim Richey commended graduates for their perseverance.

“Today is a special day in your lives because it marks an impressive accomplishment. It also marks the start of an exciting journey as you begin using what you have learned to advance your careers and live a richer, fuller life,” said Richey.

“Getting here has not been easy with many of you juggling jobs, families and other responsibilities. But you stayed the course despite the challenges you faced. That fortitude is not something that can be taught in the classroom. Rather, it speaks to your strength of character in a way that you can draw on in the years ahead. My admiration for you is immense and so is the pride that all of us at EFSC have for you.”

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