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Germanna's second fall commencement begins with moment of silence for the victims of the Newtown, Conn., shooting.
At the college's fall graduation Monday night, Anita Newhouse said Germanna opens the door to higher education.
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By PAMELA GOULD
Germanna Community College President David Sam began Monday night's fall graduation ceremony by asking for a moment of silence for the victims of Friday's school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
"Tonight is a joyful occasion to celebrate the accomplishments and successes of these graduates," Sam said as he stood before hundreds of students in burgundy caps and gowns at the Fredericksburg Expo Center.
"At the same time, we are saddened that terrible violence invaded another sanctuary of learning in Connecticut. Schools should be safe places for teachers to teach and students to learn. All of the children are our children. All of those lost are our loss."
Germanna began holding fall commencement last year because the college had outgrown the Expo Center's capacity for a single graduation in the spring, spokesman Mike Zitz said.
Monday night, Germanna recognized 572 students who earned a total of 942 associate degrees and educational certificates.
Both the keynote speaker and student speaker shared that they never imagined college in their futures.
Anita Newhouse is manager of the college's Welcome and Entry Center at the Daniel Technology Center in Culpeper.
She said she had every excuse imaginable for not pursuing a degree but ultimately was swayed by a friend who pushed her to enroll and suggested she begin with one class per semester.
"She kept telling me I could do it," Newhouse said. "As each semester passed, my confidence increased and I held my head a little higher."
Newhouse, who graduated from Spotsylvania County's Courtland High School, started at Germanna at age 29.
She earned an associate degree in business management and then, with the help of a Chancellor's Fellowship, went on to the University of Mary Washington where she earned a bachelor's degree in leadership and management in 2010.
Newhouse, now 36, has been a Germanna employee since 2006, is married and has two daughters, ages 10 and 15.
The Chancellor's Fellowship is available to two Virginia Community College System employees per year. It covers in-state tuition, mandatory fees, three-quarters of their salary, and up to a one-year leave of absence from their position without any penalty.