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MCC commencement May 13 at Starlight Theatre; 2,100 students are candidates for graduation

May 3, 2021
By Tim Engle

Grad Bags, 2021 Commencement

Graduating students picked up “grad bags” containing a cap, tassel, MCC medallion and other items at drive-thru events on the campuses in April.

Metropolitan Community College’s 2021 commencement will take place outdoors at Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, with plenty of room for graduates and guests to spread out.

The ceremony — at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 13 (with a rain date of May 14) — will be the first major MCC event to be held in-person since the start of the coronavirus outbreak more than a year ago.

#MCCGrads2021 can invite up to two guests each to commencement, but the program will also be livestreamed (and recorded) for other family and friends to watch.

Although the historic outdoor theater can seat about 8,000 people normally, the capacity with social distancing in place will be about 3,000.

"Having commencement in-person for 2021 is signaling that we’re trying to move forward through the pandemic while also being safe," says Christopher Shobe, MCC director of student success. "We know last year’s graduates were disappointed that they were not able to have an in-person event, so we’re excited to bring our graduates back together to celebrate."

Members of the Class of 2020 have been invited to take part in this year’s ceremony. MCC commencement last June was a virtual event.

Chancellor Kimberly Beatty will serve as the event’s emcee. The keynote speaker will be Joni Wickham, who served as chief of staff in former Kansas City Mayor Sly James’ office. Wickham grew up in North Carolina and was the first in her family to get a college education. After James left office in 2019, he and Wickham founded Wickham James Strategies & Solutions, a strategic communications and government relations firm.

This year’s student speaker will be Chance Walker, 24, who attends MCC-Blue River in Independence. Walker, of Blue Springs, started college at another institution, dropped out his first semester and worked four years before deciding to enroll at MCC. Inspired by a Blue River faculty member, he is planning to become a high school teacher.

Also at commencement, the College will announce the inaugural recipient of the MCC Distinguished Alumni Award, presented by the MCC Foundation.

Nearly 2,100 students are candidates for graduation this year. Collectively, they will have earned about 2,500 associate degrees and certificates.

MCC officials said that in planning this year’s commencement, the health and safety of participants took top priority. Organizers and MCC leadership agreed that for an in-person ceremony to be considered, it would need to be held outdoors; include a limited number of attendees; and follow strict coronavirus protocols, including mandatory face masks and social distancing.

Other adjustments are being made as well. Students will not be marching together in an opening processional. Instead, when they arrive at Starlight, they will be ushered to their seats for safe social distancing. Each graduate’s name will be announced and they will still cross the Starlight stage, but without the usual handshakes.

Most MCC courses have been delivered virtually since late March 2020. Some hands-on career classes, such as health sciences, police and fire, veterinary technology and automotive technology, have been meeting safely on campus. Many more students are expected on the five campuses this fall. "The Pack Is Back" (a nod to the MCC Wolf mascot and the MCC Wolf Pack) is the theme for fall enrollment, now underway.

More information about MCC’s 2021 commencement ceremony can be found at mcckc.edu/commencement.