For Will Eakes of Clinton, Hinds Community College was the perfect place to kick off his college career.

“It was great. It was smaller, and I like that because it meant a lot more availability and being able to have teacher-student relationships,” he said. “If I had a problem, I wouldn’t have to go through a million people to get it figured out. Being at a smaller campus with people who seemed to really care about you made things a lot better, in my opinion.

Will Eakes of Clinton sports honor cords and his Phii Theta Kappa medallion and stole for the July 30 graduation at Hinds Community College. He was among 600 students participating in one of four drive-through ceremonies. (Hinds Community College/April Garon)

On Thursday, July 30, Eakes was among more than 600 students participating in a drive-through graduation ceremony over a four-day period. His next stop is the University of Southern Mississippi as a film major.

Because of social distancing restrictions with the COVID-19 pandemic, Hinds was unable to have traditional ceremonies inside. The spring and summer ceremonies were combined and turned into a drive-through event, over three days at Eagle Ridge Conference Center in Raymond July 29-31 and a fourth day at the Utica Campus on Aug. 1.

Each graduate was greeted by the new college president, Dr. Stephen Vacik, who took office on July 1, and cheered on by members of the Executive Leadership Team, all of whom wore masks.

Kojo Davis, 51, of Vicksburg came back to Hinds to take one class to finish his associate degree. He had previously been a student at the Utica Campus and sang with the Jubilee Singers under now retired director Dr. Bobby Cooper.

Kojo Davis of Vicksburg was inspired by his former Hinds Community College instructor Dr. Bobby Cooper to take one more class to get a Hinds degree. He was among 600 students participating in one of four drive-through ceremonies. (Hinds Community College/April Garon)

“This was in honor of Dr. Bobby Cooper. He was my mentor,” said Davis, who is teaching at Warren Central Intermediate School and working on a bachelor’s degree in psychology through an online program at Ashford University in San Diego.

His interest is in musicology – a scholarly study of music – and his goal is to get a doctorate degree and work with underprivileged kids. “Dr. Cooper really inspired a lot of us,” he said.

Tiffany Butler, 27, of Jackson is inspired by her mother, Beverly Young, who is a nurse at Baptist Medical Center. She finished a Hinds degree and plans to return for nursing school.

Tiffany Butler of Jackson graduated from Hinds Community College on July 30 in one of four drive-through ceremonies. She is with her best friend Jasmine Williams, left, mom Beverly Young and son Liam Noel, 2. Her next step is the Hinds nursing program. (Hinds Community College/April Garon)

“After my son’s birth, I came back and I’m graduating. I had a good semester and great teachers,” she said. “My mom is my motivation.”

As Mississippi’s largest community college, Hinds Community College is a comprehensive institution offering quality, affordable educational opportunities with academic programs of study leading to seamless university transfer and career and technical programs teaching job-ready skills. With six locations in central Mississippi, Hinds enrolls about 12,000 students each fall semester. To learn more, visit www.hindscc.edu or call 1.800.HindsCC.

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