Hundreds of Grayson College students donned their caps and gowns Friday and received their diplomas before a crowd of full of friends and family.

More than 500 graduates walked across the stage of the school's Cruce Stark Auditorium in a ceremony that signified the end of their days at Grayson College and the completion of their associate degrees in science, teaching and the arts.

“This is just a proud moment that everybody shares,” Grayson College President Jeremy McMillen said. “From the time a student even thinks about coming to college here, what we envision is them walking across the stage and celebrating all the effort they've put in.”

Grayson College alumni Sherman Perry, who graduated from the school in 1967, delivered the college's commencement speech. With many of the graduates soon to begin the search for employment, Perry reminded them that the dream jobs they were likely hoping for would materialize in good time.

“You must practice patience,” he said. “Things will come to you when you are ready to handle them and not before. Just keep working and ever stop reaching until you reach the desired results.”

Victoria Perry, who is unrelated to the commencement speaker, was selected as the recipient of the President's Award. McMillen cited her strong academic performance and her volunteer efforts at an area pregnancy center, her church and the Sherman Public Library as examples of her upstanding character.

“I didn't even know I had been nominated until I heard my name announced,” Victoria Perry said. “I was told my mother screamed and cried when I got the president's award.”

Victoria Perry said she plans to attend Southeastern Oklahoma State University in the fall, where she will pursue a bachelor's degree in banking and finance. In her two years at Grayson College, Perry said she was able to strengthen her sense of self-confidence. but she still encouraged those on the fence about college to remember that educators and classmates can be a great support system.

“I think the main thing is that you're really not alone,” Victoria Perry said. “People really do care and if you actually try and seek out opportunities, you can find them.”

Fellow graduate and future Southeastern student Luis Perez, earned his associate degree in science and said he plans to work toward a career in the field of occupational safety. But Perez's graduation from Grayson College on Friday was unique in that he is still several weeks away from earning his diploma from Tioga High School.

“It feels amazing,” Perez said of his accomplishment. “It's just another step ahead.”

While he described working toward two diplomas at the same time as difficult — and sleep-depriving — Perez said it is a decision he is glad he made.

“It was all worth it,” Perez said. “Everybody tells you this, but it's nothing but the truth — hard work will always pay off in the end.”