ASHLAND, Ky. — Tiffany Clay, of Olive Hill, Kentucky, was one of more than 700 students to walk the Paramount Arts Center stage Monday evening in downtown Ashland as a graduate of Ashland Community and Technical College.

"I am so excited to have achieved my goal," Clay said prior to the graduation ceremony.

Clay, 34, received an associate's degree in applied science in the culinary arts.

"My plan is to open up my own bakery in Olive Hill," she said.

ACTC's 2019 commencement honored students who were August and December 2018 graduates, and May and Summer 2019 graduation candidates.

This year's student speaker was Huntington resident Joshua Fuller.

Fuller, 40, was the Student Government Association vice president and participated in fundraising and volunteered for community functions for the college. He earned an associate degree in nursing and has a job lined up at Cabell Huntington Hospital in the interventional radiology department as a graduate nurse.

"I worked at AK Steel for 16 years and when they shut down I decided to go back to school to get a job I would not get laid off," Fuller said. "It's been a difficult journey, but I am so glad that I got into nursing."

Fuller says he plans on continuing his education by working toward a bachelor's degree in nursing starting this fall. In his speech, he told his fellow graduates to choose the hard path.

"Even if you think you can't do something, you need to know that even though it may be hard you can do it if you stick with it," he said.

Two graduates, Kailee Ross and Kayleana Simmons, were named to the Kentucky Community and Technical College System's All-Academic Team.

Ross is a Catlettsburg resident who earned an associate in arts and science degree. During her time at ACTC, she was in work study in admissions and recruiting at the school's College Drive Campus and was the president of the Student Government Association.

"We are so proud of her," said her mother Vanessa Ross. "She has loved her time here at ACTC."

Kailee Ross plans to transfer to Morehead State University in the fall to continue working toward a bachelor's degree in elementary education, her mother said.

Simmons, of Sandy Hook, earned an associate in applied science degree in medical information technology. She is a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Student Support Services, and was a supplemental instructor for anatomy and physiology. She will also transfer to Morehead State University for the imaging sciences program.

"My career plans are to earn a degree in imaging sciences to become a radiology technician," she said.

Many earned more than one degree, diploma or certificate, and more than 1,800 credentials were awarded.

Also at the ceremony, Dr. Jay Box, president of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, inaugurated Dr. Larry Ferguson as ACTC's president and CEO.

Norma Meek received a Distinguished Service Award for her work in the community and with fundraising events at ACTC.

Richard Merritt, associate professor in mathematics and ACTC's academic coordinator for the arts and sciences and health sciences divisions, received the Gussler Family Endowed Chair Award.

The Paul G. Blazer High School JROTC was the color guard, and ACTC student Kendra Spaulding sang the national anthem.

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter at @FredPaceHD.

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