CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- More than 900 students graduated with the Piedmont Virginia Community College class of 2019 in John Paul Jones Arena on Thursday evening.
Garyon Clark was chosen to speak in front of his graduating class because his hard work reflected what many of the students graduating alongside him had to also put in.
"Attend school, raise a family, work as an assistant store manager at a restaurant, still substitute, coach, and partake in these extracurricular activities and still graduate,” said Clark.
He said he consistently would wake up at 4 a.m. to study. He said it was not easy, but he hopes to be an inspiration to his two daughters and others.
"To everybody who's out there who are unsure about what they want to do, stay positive, stay focused,” said Clark. “And really, I want to say, don't let someone tell you that you can't do something just because they can't do it. Just be positive, be open-minded, and take the chance."
Khizr Khan, the commencement speaker, said two of his sons graduated from PVCC. He said he also saw himself in the crowd of graduates.
"When I came to the United States, I was not in a position to afford my education without work,” said Khan. “So I used to have two jobs and save for the college so I can empathize with the graduates what hard work means and having the goal of moving forward in education means."
He told the graduates to keep learning as they move forward.
"Continue. Learning is a process, it's not a destination,” said Khan. “Continue learning, continue making your lives better."
Now more than 800 students like Clark are doing exactly what Khan advised, hoping to further their education at universities across the nation.