By Kim Walter
Area college students are headed across stages this weekend to receive that very significant piece of paper.
Christendom College in Front Royal, Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown and Shenandoah University in Winchester are each holding commencement exercises this Saturday to send hard-working students onto the next phase of their lives.
Christendom will be presenting degrees to 96 graduates at 11 a.m. Saturday. This is the 35th anniversary year for the college, and the graduating class is its 34th.
Archbishop Charles Brown will offer the baccalaureate Mass on Friday, and also will deliver the commencement address the following day. There, he will receive an honorary doctorate from college President Dr. Timothy O'Donnell.
Brown is the Papal Nuncio to Ireland and was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2011. Brown previously served as an official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.
Anne Carroll, the founder of Seton School in Manassas and Seton Home Study School, will be awarded with the college's St. Catherine of Siena Award for "her distinguished service to the Church and Christendom."
Carroll has spent the past 35 years developing and teaching an "authentically Catholic curriculum" and is the author of "Christ the King: Lord of History," and "Christ and the Americas."
The graduates are diverse, coming from all over the country and other places like Ireland and Canada. Additionally, 42 of the graduates are siblings of Christendom alumni, while seven are children of alumni.
Lord Fairfax Community College will hold its commencement at Skyline High School at 1 p.m. Saturday.
This year, 1,068 individuals will receive a college credential, compared to 938 during last year's ceremony. The number of graduates represents a 14 percent increase.
LFCC President Dr. Cheryl Thompson-Stacy is particularly proud of the recent growth, and attributed it to a number of support services and exceptional faculty "whose primary focus is always on the success of our students."
Thompson-Stacy also pointed out that the college's recent student survey, which was completed by more than 1,200 students, found that 98 percent of the students would recommend the community college to their family and friends.
The commencement speaker is special, in that he is one of the college's own.
David Jezierski is graduating with an associate's degree in science and hopes to teach mathematics at the collegiate level. In the fall, he plans to attend James Madison University.
Jezerski, of Berryville, isn't a traditional student according to some - he started college a little later in life -- but in that way he makes a perfect student at the community college.
"Vast diversity is what makes the community college experience so unique," he said.
Shenandoah University will celebrate its 2013 commencement at 1:45 p.m. in the Smith Library Plaza on Saturday. While there are 669 May candidates for degrees, they will be joined by more than 500 graduates from August and December.
Former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu will deliver the commencement address and will be awarded the honorary Doctor of Law degree from the university.
Additionally, Ina May Gaskin, founder and director of the Farm Midwifery Center in Tennessee, will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree.
The rain date for the university's ceremony is 10 a.m. Sunday.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org