Thousands of graduates marched into the future Saturday as universities awarded degrees across the Triangle.
At N.C. State University, more than 5,900 graduates, most wearing Wolfpack red robes, received degrees at PNC Arena. At N.C. Central University, 600 undergraduates celebrated at O'Kelly-Riddick Stadium. Shaw, St. Augustine's and Campbell universities held commencements Saturday morning, and Meredith College planned an evening ceremony.
Graduation festivities continue Sunday at Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill.
At NCSU, Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, delivered the address to graduates, encouraging them to work for a stronger future for the nation's young and vulnerable.
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"Democracy is not a spectator sport," she said. "I'm calling for all to enter the campaign to end child poverty in our country. The greatest threat to security and economic prosperity does not come from another nation—it comes from our internal failure to invest in our children."
Honorary degrees were awarded to Edelman and Temple Grandin, a pioneer in improving the welfare of farm animals and an advocate for people with autism.
In Durham, NCCU graduate Xonya Fishe was spotlighted at the Mother's Day weekend ceremony. Fishe is the mother of 10 who returned to college two decades after leaving high school. She finished her NCCU degree in psychology with a 3.9 grade point average and plans a career as an adolescent and family counselor.
N.C. Rep. Chaz Beasley, a Charlotte Democrat, urged graduates to use their education as a force for good.
"You have a seat at the table," he said. "Step up and be heard."