366 SEARK graduates at the Palais des Congrès


This is the sixth of 14 entries in a series highlighting Jefferson County high school and college graduates.

Southeast Arkansas College graduates took to the arena stage at the Pine Bluff Convention Center for the first time in nearly three years Friday night, and no long lines supported the latecomers this time.

The four metal detectors at the entrance were in use before SEARK started, allowing for faster screenings than Tuesday night, when hundreds of people backed into a slow queue and missed all or the bulk of Watson Chapel High School‘s graduation. Convention Center officials blamed a late-arriving crowd for the save.

SEARK has returned to familiar surroundings after enduring a number of safety protocols during the covid-19 pandemic. Early Fall 2021 was held at the college’s Seabrook Activity Center.

“It’s so good to come back and see all these people, you know?” SEARK President Steven Bloomberg said.

State Representative Ken Ferguson, D-Pine Bluff, encouraged graduates to “seek sound advice” and to remember that “failure is not final” during his commencement speech. The graduating class included 366 people who received a diploma or certificate — one of the largest classes in Bloomberg’s four years at the school — and nine high school graduates.

One of the new graduates, George Sanders of White Hall, earned an Associate of Arts degree as he nears the end of a six-year Air Force enlistment, which helped him get into school.

“They offered great benefits and I jumped on that bandwagon,” the aviator said.

One of his postings was in Kuwait for six months, where he said it was very hot.

“It was a great experience and I had a lot of fun doing it,” said Sanders, 24, who will complete his service in August.

Sanders said his wife encouraged him to enroll in the accounting program at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff for his bachelor’s degree.

“My wife is very smart. She’s going to get me through this,” said Sanders, who grew up in Star City. “We plan to open our own business one day.”

When Sanders isn’t touching the college books or serving his country, he shares the “good book” as a youth pastor and plays drums at White Hall United Pentecostal Church.

George Sanders of White Hall receives his Associate of Arts degree from Southeast Arkansas College during graduation Friday, May 13, 2022 at the Pine Bluff Convention Center. (Pine Bluff Commercial/IC Murrell)
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