Where the circle begins: Union freshmen commit to college’s core values

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For the Mountain Advocate

College is about traditions; it’s about completing the circle of education and moving toward the next phase of one’s life; it’s about discovering the values we all hold. More than 200 incoming college students committed themselves to this endeavor and pledged to support Union’s core values during the annual C.I.R.C.L.E.S. ceremony.

“This ceremony serves as a partnership between Union and the community,” said Union President Marcia Hawkins. “Here, we pledge our support to the success of our freshmen students and they plan to work diligently to reach their goals.”

President Hawkins led the annual new student induction ceremony into its eleventh year. During the event, Dr. Hawkins led a pledge on behalf of the staff to the new students. Dr. David Johns, Vice-President for Academic Affairs, led faculty members in a pledge to the students. David Thompson, Barbourville City Mayor, led the community in their pledge to Union’s students.

“We, the community, recognize that when Union College lives up to its core values, our community as a whole is enriched,” Mayor Thompson said.

Once those pledges were affirmed, Union’s students completed the circle pledging to uphold Union’s core values: Celebration – Integrity – Responsibility – Civility – Learning – Engagement – Spirituality.

James Becknell, Union’s Student Government Association (SGA) Vice-President, led Union’s student leaders in a commitment to serve as guiding examples of those values for their new peers. SGA President Briana Patel then led the new student body in their pledge to Union College.

“As the Class of 2019, we understand that character is not given from the outside; it can only be built from the inside,” the students pledged. “We accept the responsibility and privilege of living according to the core values of Celebration, Integrity, Responsibility, Civility, Learning, Engagement and Spirituality.”

Following the ceremony, students filed two by two from Conway Boatman Chapel in a procession along a candlelit walk to Ramsey Circle. There, in front of historic Centennial Hall, the students were presented with a C.I.R.C.L.E.S. medallion; a representation of Union’s values. Upon graduation, each student will present the medallion to a mentor who helped to strengthen those same core values for the student, thus completing the circle.

Dr. Hawkins was joined by the event’s guest speaker, Marie Cirillo, and numerous faculty, staff and community members for medal presentation. Cirillo has spent her life engaged in fulfilling similar values working with the Clearfork Community Institute in Eagen, Tenn., providing resources and support to the families that live there. For more than 40 years, she has helped families throughout Appalachia discover their own values and the circles that hold them.

“We each are capable of teaching and learning from one another,” Cirillo said. “We are all agents of change and we should seek that change deliberately.”