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Advantage Shelby County graduates encouraged to continue volunteering

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Olivia Jones reads her prepared comments during Thursday’s commencement ceremony. Jones said she graduated debt-free and was recently able to buy a car.
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Connor Osborne receives his degree from Stephanie Amos, vice chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College, during Thursday’s Advantage Shelby County graduation ceremony.
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Graduates and their families enjoy cake after the ceremony at the Strand Theatre.

By ROSS FLINT - rflint@shelbynews.com

As part of Advantage Shelby County’s requirements, students are expected to complete 20 hours of volunteer service each academic year.

Since the inception of the program, students have contributed more than 6,400 hours back to Shelby County, Stephanie Amos, vice chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College, said during Thursday’s second annual graduation celebration. That includes more than 800 this semester.

Serving the community is something Dr. Sue Ellspermann, president of Ivy Tech Community College, hopes this year’s 25 students who graduated continue moving forward.

“This gift (receiving a free education) is a pay-it-forward kind of strategy,” Ellspermann said during the ceremony. “I know you’ve done those hours of community service. Thank you for that. But now I want you to think about how you will leverage your career and talent to make an even greater difference in Shelby County and the state of Indiana. Our communities need you, and our state needs you. Continue your community service as you continue through college, as you settle into a career, and as you raise a family.”

Ellspermann told the students that she was a “huge fan” of what Shelby County and Shelbyville have done in supporting the students.

“I don’t know if you even fully get how big a deal this is because there are very few communities across the state of Indiana and I can count them on less than one hand that have provided for their students the way this community has,” she said.

On the flip side, Advantage Shelby County Scholarship Coordinator Ami Carter acknowledged that the graduating students took a risk when they decided to apply and attend.

Advantage Shelby County didn’t have any graduates at the time of their application, she said, and as a result, they didn’t know what they were getting themselves into.

“You had the courage to join us, you had the courage to go through a program you didn’t know what it really was, and we didn’t have a track record yet,” she said. “And I hope that you always keep that same courage as you go forward in all that you do.”

She encouraged them to try new things and become involved in things they’re passionate about. And she encouraged them to volunteer their services.

Olivia Jones, one of those graduates, said it had been “a long two years, yet a short two years.”

She explained that it had been long because of the homework, required readings, early morning classes, and late night study sessions. It was short because of the lifelong friendships and memories she gained, and the lessons learned despite the occasional hardships.

“Good or bad, long or short, I will always be thankful for the opportunities that Advantage Shelby County has given me,” she said.

She earned an associates degree in elementary education and graduated without any debt. She said she recently bought a car and currently works.

“These are no small endeavors, and I would not be where I am today without the opportunities given by the support of the Advantage board,” she said.

After the ceremony, the graduates and their family and friends enjoyed cake and photos.