More than 400 graduates received degrees or certificates Saturday during commencement at the Spartan Events Center at Elgin Community College.
For the second consecutive year, separate ceremonies were held in the morning and afternoon for transfer degrees, such as associate in arts or science, and for career and technical programs.
A total of 967 candidates were eligible for graduation, according to the college. An increase in participation in the ceremony last year led the college for the first time to hold two ceremonies.
The speaker for the early session was Charmaine McAllister, a former professional singer and recording artist, who toured and shared the stage with artists such as MC Hammer.
The 45-year old native of Jamaica, West Indies, who earned an associate degree in fine arts, was the speaker for the early ceremony.
She said she came to the United States at 10 years old and lived in New York and Pittsburgh. Her debut recording was successful, and in 1999 she was voted Pittsburgh's best gospel performer. From there it was a world of corporate jets and limousines, but she would eventually lose it all.
Crippled by depression and pain for three years, she said she decided to "lay down and die or get up and try," and she made her way to Elgin Community College and a fresh start.
She thanked the counselors, instructors, tutors and others who teamed up to make it possible for her to move forward despite health and emotional challenges.
"My story relates to so many people," she said before the ceremony. "I'm still on the go and not giving up on my passion." She sings with two bands and plans to release a single this year.
Eustacio Baldazo Jr., was the speaker for the afternoon ceremony. Baldazo was suspended from Northern Illinois University and put on academic probation at ECC. His grade-point average was 0.70.
He left to work for a time but returned with a dream of becoming a police officer.
He earned high grades and was allowed to attend full-time. He graduated with an associates of applied science degree in Criminal Justice, with high honors.