What’s the eye-catching, dazzling and unforgettable way to celebrate success? Since opening in 1963, Lorain County Community College (LCCC) has made it a point to create innovative accolades that honor the achievements of the 47,000 students who have successfully earned degrees there.
Last year, when COVID-19 restrictions forced the college to cancel the in-person ceremony, LCCC’s commencement team designed an outdoor display comprising 47,000 flags that formed the shape of a graduation cap. Spanning 351 feet by 279 feet, it included a tassel containing 2,185 yellow flags — one for each graduate of the Class of 2020.
This year’s offering is even more extraordinary.
After two months of brainstorming, the attention-grabbing results can be seen dotting the campus. To commemorate the Class of 2021, 21 Doors of Opportunity were built to symbolize the challenges students have faced on their academic journey. Each of the 8-foot-high and 4-foot-wide structures includes an augmented reality video that shares personal stories of 25 members of the Class of 2021 and highlights the college’s academic programs. Each door is enhanced by solar lights that add sparkle and ensure they’ll be a beacon 24 hours a day.
“As we began talking about what commencement would look like this year, it became pretty obvious that we wouldn’t be able to host a large-scale, in-person event,” says Alison Musser, LCCC’s director of strategic community engagement initiatives. “We decided to create another outdoor installation that would not only provide a photo opportunity, but also be a reason for people to visit the campus in a safe way. The Doors of Opportunity showcase the resiliency of our students during this incredibly difficult time.”
As visitors approach each door, they can access a corresponding QR code with their phone that links to a website and app that tells the stories in a variety of compelling ways.
“We took each student into our photo studio and shot them on a green screen,” says LCCC creative director Jim Gundlach, who spearheaded the project. “Our goal was to tell each story differently and include aspects of their personality. One of the students we feature is a hospital volunteer who dons a Spider-Man costume and visits kids in the pediatric unit. We thought, ‘That’s perfect. We’ll have him drop down from the top of the door in the costume, turn around and tell us why this work is so important to him.’”
This year’s graduating class was comprised of 1,854 students who earned 2,234 degrees or certificates. An additional 365 graduates earned associate, bachelor’s or master’s degrees through LCCC’s University Partnership — the largest class in the 25-year history of the program. The Class of 2021 also included 94 students who earned an associate degree while finishing their senior year of high school through the Lorain County Early College High School and College Credit Plus programs. Additionally, the doors represent the depth of academic opportunities the college offers through its short-term training certificates.
Emblazoned on each door is a word the student selected to symbolize their hopes and dreams. They include: Accomplish, Achieve, Believe, Care, Challenge, Connect, Create, Dedicate, Dream, Focus, Innovate, Inspire, Overcome, Persevere, Serve, Teach, Trailblaze and Uplift.
“Every student who attends Lorain County Community College comes from a different place, and everyone’s journey is unique,” Musser says. “We want everyone who visits the doors to understand the diversity of our students — not only within — and realize the socioeconomic and other challenges they face. These are the beautiful and poignant stories the doors bring to life.”