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Spring Graduates Honored at Two Commencement Ceremonies

Watch Ceremony Replays on YouTube
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May 11, 2023 - Eastern Florida State College students commemorated graduation Thursday with a true family affair as they celebrated earning their diplomas to the cheers of family, friends, and college faculty and staff.

More than 1,750 students were candidates to graduate in the Spring term with about 700 taking part in the 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. ceremonies at the King Center for the Performing Arts on the Melbourne Campus.

The afternoon ceremony was very much a pre-Mother's Day weekend celebration as in at least four cases, family members joined each other to walk across the stage, representing four different families that included a mother and her child graduating on the same day and in one case a mother and two children.

Niccole Patellis, her daughter Emma Dion and stepson Christopher Patellis all earned Associate in Arts degrees, with Niccole also having previously received an Aerospace Technology A.S. degree at EFSC.

Family members in blue graduation caps and gowns
As the song says, it's a mother and child reunion! Pictured left to right: Elijah McGough, Traci McGough, Dorothy Bowman, Dawson Bowman, Christopher Patellis, Niccole Patellis, Emma Dion, Mia Rodriguez, and Stefanie Rodriguez.

“My brother and I were both part of the dual enrollment program at Merritt Island High School which allowed us to get our A.A.,” said Dion, who is joining the U.S. Army where she will study to be a veterinary technician, while Christopher is heading to UCF with plans to eventually become a doctor.

“Our mother works for Microsoft and so she was able to further her degree through her job. She plans on getting her bachelor’s degree through Eastern Florida in cybersecurity,” added Dion, who said that dad and two other siblings are also currently EFSC students who plan to graduate together next Spring.

Also adding to the family atmosphere were mother and son graduates Dorothy and Dawson Bowman and Traci and Elijah McGough, who all earned A.A. degrees, plus mother and daughter Stefanie and Mia Rodriguez, who both completed the Early Childhood Education A.S. and associated certificates.

“She really wanted to be a teacher and wanted to open her own preschool so when she let me know her goal, we both decided to enroll," said Stefanie. “My daughter wants to get a doctorate and be a principal and run her own school. When I was younger, I wanted to be a teacher, but I ended up in the medical field because of my mother. I guess my daughter kind of inherited that love for teaching from me.”

The McGoughs did not originally plan to finish at the same time, but were excited when it worked out that way.

“We both started the process for Direct Connect to UCF. Elijah will be majoring in Information Technology and I will be majoring in International and Global Studies,” said Traci. “I work at the Kennedy Space Center so this major will tie in well with what I do.”

When now 17-year-old Dawson Bowman started EFSC's dual enrollment program, it prompted his mom to go back and finish college.

“When I was in high school, I pushed my mom to go back to school and now I am doing the same,” said Dorothy whose son will move on to Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland to major in mechanical engineering.

man taking photo of graduate and friend in front of EFSC backgroundCollege President Dr. Jim Richey congratuled all of the spring graduates, saying, “Today is a special day in your lives because it marks an impressive accomplishment. It also marks the start of an exciting journey as you begin using what you have learned to advance your careers and live a richer, fuller life."

“Getting here has not been easy with many of you juggling jobs, families, and other responsibilities. But you stayed the course despite the challenges you faced.”

“That fortitude is not something that can be taught in the classroom. Rather, it speaks to your strength of character in a way that you can draw on in the years ahead. My admiration for you is immense and so is the pride that all of us at EFSC have for you.”

Among those graduating at the 11 a.m. ceremony was EFSC's Radiography A.S. degree cohort who decided to walk together as a visible sign of their success as a team.

“We all started this program at end of the pandemic. We all formed a bond right away with each other,” said graduate Erica Leggins, one of the radiography students pictured  in the group photo at the top of this story.

“Teamwork is extremely important in our profession that we're graduating in. Without teamwork with this class we would not have survived this program if we did not work well together and help each other out.”

Nursing graduate holding decorated capBoth ceremonies were broadcast live on WEFS-TV and livestreamed via YouTube. Commencement replays can be viewed on the College’s YouTube channel at

Graduates, family and friends are encouraged to post their photos and videos on social media using the hashtag #EFSCGrad so they can be part of the virtual social wall.

EFSC's newest graduates join more than 125,000 others who have earned their diplomas from the college since it opened in 1960 with one campus in Cocoa. Today four campuses span the Space Coast from Titusville to Palm Bay with almost four dozen associate, bachelor, and certificate programs also available completely online.

To learn more about EFSC and the nearly 150 programs it offers, visit