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Ohio University Eastern Sends Off Class of 2021

Photo by Robert A. DeFrank Lauren Bizzari of Shadyside, front right, Victoria Crow of St. Clairsville, far right, and Julie Daugherty of St. Clairsville are among the 2021 graduating class at Ohio University Eastern.

The 2021 graduates of Ohio University Eastern left school with a message of encouragement and lessons in adaptability gained during the coronavirus pandemic.

Angie Woods, executive director of the Augusta Levy Learning Center and a 2007 graduate was the keynote speaker. She said graduates will face challenges, but the theme of her talk was “not ‘no,’ but ‘how?'”

“Don’t limit yourself and let people tell you ‘no, it can’t be done’ but think ‘how can it be done?’ and ‘how can I accomplish it?’ is pretty much my overall message,” she said. “I was the first in my family to go to a four-year college, and it really didn’t seem possible because I was raised by a single mom.”

She emphasized determination.

“I’m completely honored to be chosen, because I remember sitting at high school graduations and college graduations and seeing the keynote speaker,” she said. “‘Will I accomplish something like that?”

Woods carries this determination and adaptability into her teaching children with autism, and when the learning center had a fire in 2018, six months after she had been promoted to executive director.

“We completely lost our building. Our kids had no space to learn, and we could’ve completely shut the doors … but again we just went back to the drawing board,” she said. “Our kids need this service, so how are we going to make sure they get the services that they need? So we figured out a plan to provide services in the home.”

She said the COVID-19 pandemic struck as the center was getting back on its feet with a new facility. The doors shut for 13 weeks.

“Faced with another challenge, we figured out how to provide telehealth care,” she said.

Dean David Rohall said about 30 graduates were present, and another 15 were not. The graduating class is slightly lower than usual but he is proud of his graduates and expects many more.

“People are very excited. They’re very happy to be here. COVID has not brought down the spirit of our students in any way,” Rohall said. “COVID has given us an opportunity to search inside and see what we’re capable of, and these students clearly show that they’re capable of doing a lot.”

Many graduates have studied fields of education, physical therapy and social work and spoke about their final year and how the pandemic has impacted their careers.

“I’ve been student teaching and I was lucky enough to be in a classroom. I’m at Shadyside and I love it.” Leah Nau of St. Clairsville, Early Childhood Education, said. “It’s been tricky, but I’m here, I’m graduating, I’m thankful no matter what.”

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