Pellissippi State highlights graduates ahead of Friday’s Virtual Commencement

We’re so excited about our Virtual Commencement ceremony this Friday! Please join us on Facebook or YouTube at 7 p.m.  Friday, Dec. 18, to recognize our summer and fall 2020 graduates. 

Well be highlighting some of our 2020 graduates on social media this week to recognize their accomplishments and celebrate their success. Keep an eye out on this page for student spotlights and help us cheer them on as they start the next part of their journeys. Way to go, graduates!  

Tuesday, Dec. 15 – Diana Drye

Diana Drye
Diana Drye didn’t just find support from faculty and staff at Pellissippi State. She also found a passion for helping other college students.

Diana Drye came to Pellissippi State after high school without any goals or direction and soon dropped out. Now, over 10 years later, she is preparing to graduate this week with strong grades and a resume full of achievements. Diana has proven she is #PellissippiStrong while serving as the president of the Student Government Association and the vice president of the National Society of Leadership and Success chapter at Pellissippi State. Not only has Diana achieved academic success, but she has made a lasting impact on countless students during her time at the College. 

The first time Diana attended Pellissippi State, she was not involved in any activities, instead just taking random classes to figure out what I like,” she remembers. When she came back to Pellissippi State the second time, Diana jumped right into student groups and activities, which she believes is the reason she achieved so much at Pellissippi State. “I joined Student Government Association because I saw the needs of the students,” Diana explains. I found that a lot of the students have opinions, but they don’t feel like they can share their needs or concerns. I realized I could be that voice for them.  As SGA president this fallDiana attended Faculty Senate meetings, where she says she felt welcomed and appreciated by every faculty member. They were open to my suggestions and wanted my feedback,” she notes. Professors want to make connections with students.” 

While attending class at the Strawberry Plains Campus, Diana discovered how much she enjoyed being a resource for other college students. “I realized I loved being that rainbow,” says Diana. “I would walk around campus and walk up to students I didn’t know and ask, ‘Hey, how are your classes going?’ And if they said they were having a hard time in math, I would walk them down the hallway and introduce them to the math tutor. I wanted to make them feel comfortable getting help. By working with the staff and faculty at the Strawberry Plains CampusDiana learned all of the resources that Pellissippi State offers so that she could “be the bridge between students and those resources. Through that experience, I’ve found that my passion is helping students get to where they want to be,” Diana says. Now I’m looking into a college resource career.”   

Diana credits her success at Pellissippi State to the support she received from faculty and staff. “They made my experience personable, instead of treating me like just another student,” Diana says. They catered to my personality and my needs. They saw my love for helping other students and pushed me to be able to help them more.”

Students: know your resources and use them,” encourages Diana. “Whether it’s other students and study groups, or reaching out to Counseling Services or Student Engagement and Leadership – all of these resources and activities will really make a huge difference. If you want something, go for it! If you need something, ask for it. If you dream of something, find it. 

Wednesday, Dec. 16 – Brandon England 

Brandon England
Brandon England felt positive energy at Pellissippi State from both his professors and his fellow students.

Brandon came to Pellissippi State because of its welcoming environment and stayed for the positive energy. “I didn’t have anything to worry about when I came to campus,” says Brandon. “Everyone at the College is very down to earth. That support system is really what Pellissippi State has been for me. From the professors to the students, the positive energy on campus is just contagious.” 

Brandon is graduating with a major in Business Administration and will be transferring to University of Tennessee Knoxville next fall. “I started to fall in love with business in high school,” shares Brandon. “I would like to work in high level management or go into commercial law after I go to UT. I’d like to work for a corporation’s law team one day.” 

Brandon found a platform to reach out to new students and make connections through Pellissippi State’s chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success“It’s always been a nice and loving group,” Brandon shares about the Student Engagement and Leadership team, which includes NSLS. “They are incredibly supportive. I remember during my first few days on campus, the Student Activities Board was always doing something around campus. They were there to make sure you knew where you were going, what you were doing and how to find help. It’s like a big family, and the students here make it inclusive for everybody.” 

Brandon has fond memories of his professors as well. “My favorite memory is when a professor and I decided to pull a prank on the class,” Brandon recalls. “I was given permission to order five pizzas for a review dayMy professor acted like he was mad and about to kick me out of class until he set the pizzas down in front of our classmates. That was when I realized that the professors at Pellissippi State are not just willing to guide us through difficulties, but also want to make it as enjoyable as possible.” 

Brandon experienced lots of support while at Pellissippi State, and he encourages other students to tap into the College’s resources as well. Even though everything’s online and it seems confusing, don’t be afraid to reach out to your professors or the Tutoring Center or one of the other support services at Pellissippi State,” says Brandon. “They are very invested in assisting anyone in need of help. They’ll lead you in the right direction. The Tutoring Center was definitely huge for me and made a difference in my grades and success.” 

Thursday, Dec. 17 – Shayna Smith

Shayna Smith with her late brother, Chad
It was Shayna Smith’s late brother, Chad, who encouraged her to give college another shot. This is the last picture taken of them before he passed away in May 2019.

Shayna was tired of living paycheck to paycheck and knew she needed a college education to take the next step toward her career goals. “Getting a degree is a huge milestone,” she shares. “I would love to help people one day, and I know that I have to invest in myself and my education if I ever want to help others.”  

After struggling in high school, Shayna attended Pellissippi State briefly before dropping out. While she tried to figure out what to do next, Shayna moved in with her dad. “I was struggling and didn’t know what to do with my life,” recalls Shayna. “Then I lost my brother suddenly last year. Before Shayna’s brother passed away, he told her to get back into school. He said, ‘You’re a Ferrari and don’t ever forget that,’” Shayna remembers. It’s amazing how words are so powerful, and those words definitely stuck with me. Sometimes we forget our own potential and it takes someone else to remind us of that.” Shayna’s spotlight photo is her with her brother, Chad, on their last family trip together before he passed away in May 2019. 

After Shayna’s dad and brother both encouraged her to give college another shot, she decided to go back to Pellissippi State and earn a degree in Business Administration. She is now working full time as an appraiser with her dad, who runs his own real estate, construction and appraisal business. 

Shayna credits much of her college success to the support she received at Pellissippi State. “It takes a village,” shares ShaynaI love the team-like effort and community at Pellissippi State so muchI could not have done this without the scholarships and support I received.” Shayna connected with Counseling Services, TRiO and the tutoring center, where she received individualized attention and support. “love TRiO and the tutoring center! They’re actually on my Christmas card list!” says Shayna. Having that hands-on learning and somebody to take that extra time with me was exactly what I needed.”  

Although she has faced many challenges along the way, Shayna has persevered and proven that she is #PellissippiStrong. “You can do it,” encourages Shayna. “Anything you put your mind to, you can do it. But it starts with believing in yourself.” 

Friday, Dec. 18: Eustace Muriithi

Eustace in cap and gown with diploma
Eustace Muriithi has built on the diploma in electrical engineering he earned in Kenya by graduating from Pellissippi State with a degree in Electrical Engineering Technology.

Eustace has known since grade school that he wanted to have a career in an electrical trade, and he had already received a diploma in electrical engineering in Kenya before coming to Pellissippi State. “I like the construction industry and I enjoy hands-on jobs, so I will eventually look for something that has both,” shares Eustace, who is graduating from Pellissippi State with a degree in Electrical Engineering Technology“My goal is to do my best in whatever I do and always be ready to learn.”

During his time at Pellissippi State, Eustace found many ways to stay busy and connect with others. Not only did he hold a workstudy job every semester to pay for his tuition, he was also involved in several important initiatives at the College. Eustacspent four semesters working on the Hardin Valley Campus Garden, which grows organic produce for the Pellissippi Pantry to support those at Pellissippi State who are experiencing food insecurity. He also helped start a recycling program at the college’s Division Street Campus.

Eustace still found the time to work with New Student Orientation, welcoming students and ensuring they got off to a strong start in college, and was a proud member of the International Students Club at Pellissippi State as well. 

Eustace encourages others to stay focused on their dreams. “It doesn’t matter what situation you are currently in,” he shares. “Your persistence will help you achieve your goals.”  

Friday, Dec. 18: Shireena Joy Harris, Stephanie Hurst and Christa Moscicki

Shireena Joy Harris, Stephanie Hurst and Christa Moscicki with graduation caps
Longtime friends Shireena Joy Harris, Stephanie Hurst and Christa Moscicki, from left, are graduating from Pellissippi State together. The trio have been friends since eighth grade. (Photo courtesy: Katie Hannah Photo)

Shireena, Stephanie and Christa have been friends since eighth grade, and today they graduate from Pellissippi State together. Their friendship is definitely #PellissippiStrong!  

“We went through middle school and high school together, and now we’ve just completed our degrees at Pellissippi State together, too,” shares Stephanie. “We said we would be friends through high school and college, and then we all actually ended up at the same college anyway. It was kind of weird, but cool!”

Pellissippi State has been a positive experience for the friends.

“When I got to Pellissippi State, I realized I didn’t want to go anywhere else,” says Stephanie. “I’m kind of sad to be graduating.”  

All three graduates have exciting plans for after graduation, however. Shirenna earned an Associate of Arts degree and plans to further her education in the field of real estate. Stephanie, who graduated with an Associate of Science, is transferring to Tusculum University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and certification to teach grades K-5Christa earned her Associate of Science degree and is transferring to Lincoln Memorial University to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. 

Congratulations and best wishes to all three of you!