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MTEC graduates celebrate hard work, achievement

Sometimes, you just have to laugh — even as you’re embarking upon serious work.

That’s why Barbara Barker went all Milton Bradley-retro during her graduation ceremony at the Monongalia County Technical Education Center on Monday afternoon.

The respectable reproduction of the “Operation” cover art on her mortarboard told the tale.

“Operation” is a classic board game of the 1960s. It’s the one where “surgeons” perform pun-filled procedures — i.e. removing a bucket game piece from a leg (to suggest water on the knee) while hoping to avoid the buzzing nose of the patient all the while.

“I had fun with it,” the 2021 MTEC graduate and Kingwood native said. “And I wanted to be different.”

It was all about the fun, and the celebration, in the transformed parking lot of the technical center on Mississippi Street that afternoon.

Around 175 graduates went forth in the outdoor ceremony. Organizers staggered it in four separate ceremonies to give every graduate a moment.

Greg Dausch, MTEC’s director, presided over the proceedings, announcing graduates’ names with the flair of a game show host, tossing quotes and inside jokes with glee.

“We can do things like this,” he said.

“Our students work hard,” he continued. “They had to deal with a pandemic. And they still got it done.”

MTEC graduation 2021
The 2021 MTEC graduates march to the ceremony outside Monday afternoon.

An MTEC graduate can make a cherry pie or operate a plasma cutter, while running a restaurant or doing all the coding for the latest game to download on your smartphone.

They tear into automobile engines and tear down dilapidated structures — to build new ones on the same foundation.

High school completers and adult graduates sat on white chairs after their procession to the recorded strains of “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Earlier that day, the human services and industrial arts graduates walked across the portable stage to shake hands and pick up the certificates signifying their achievement.

Completers of the adult programming classes would follow Barker and her fellow health occupations graduates — and many of them, Barker included, are looking to long, productive careers in the medical profession.

Barker, who successfully completed MTEC’s surgical technology program, is already in the middle of a neurosurgical externship — “I’m looking down into a lot of brains,” she said.

Meanwhile, Morgantown resident Allen Duley III hugged his wife, Paige, and cradled their toddler son, Allen IV, while shedding his cap and gown.

Duley is also a surgical tech grad, and he’s looking into his brain to consider an eventual move to nursing school or medical school.

“I have to provide for my family,” he said.

That ethos of enduring for those you love is the cornerstone of MTEC, Dausch said.

Which is why he didn’t lose patience when that freight truck rumbled past the ceremony, obliterating, for the moment, the output of the P.A. system.

The director waited patiently for the driver to complete his work, and the graduates did, too.

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