WILKES-BARRE TWP. — It wasn’t your typical graduation for Luzerne County Community College on Thursday night.
This one — on the heels of the school’s 50th anniversary — was “special,” said LCCC President Thomas Leary.
Another unique thing about this year’s commencement was that the graduating class included Ted Geffert, 82, of Mountain Top, who is the oldest graduate in the history of the college.
The former Crestwood superintendent received special recognition from Leary during the ceremony at the Mohegan Sun Arena. Geffert was awarded a degree in Computer Information Systems (CIS). He took computer courses over the years in an effort to learn more about the field.
The principal address was given by someone who is a college student herself. In addition to attending Xavier University, Ohio native Kilee Brookbank, 20, is also a burn survivor, philanthropist, and author.
“I’m sure you’re all probably wondering why you’re about to listen to someone who is your age or maybe even younger than you talk about life,” she told the graduates.
Brookbank suffered burns that covered 45 percent of her body as a result of a house fire in November 2014.
“Life can change in the blink of an eye,” she said about the experience.
Brookbank underwent many procedures at Shriners Hospitals For Children in Cincinnati. After being released, she began physical therapy and returned to school two-and-a-half months later.
“I think of myself as a burn survivor — not a burn victim,” Brookbank said.
She decided to help the hospital that saved her life by starting the Kilee Gives Back Foundation, which has raised more than $230,000.
Brookbank also released the award-winning book, “Beautiful Scars,” in 2016 and the children’s book, “ Digger the Hero Dog,” in 2018.
“Your scars are part of your story,” she said. “They make us more beautiful. They give us a story to tell.”
The graduate address was given by summa cum laude graduate and scholarship recipient Amy Alexandra Marcalle, of Hazleton, who will be pursuing a double major in English and sociology at Penn State after receiving her associate’s from LCCC.
During her time at the school, Marcalle said she came across a diverse group of students who included working mothers returning to class, those working more than two jobs, and immigrants looking to make their dreams come true.
She encouraged her fellow graduates to “knock on doors, chase opportunities, and find a purpose.”
“Once you find a purpose and you fight to manifest it, there will be no single enemy in the whole vast universe that will be strong enough to stop you,” Marcalle said.
She concluded the speech by energetically exclaiming in Spanish, “Si se Puede,” which translates to “Yes, it can be done.”
The Alumni Association’s Outstanding Graduate Award was presented to Shannen Brady, who completed a dental hygiene program at LCCC. The Outstanding Adult Learner Award, which goes to non-traditional students who attend classes on a part-time basis, was given to Janet Golaszewski, of Mountain Top.