For about 15 years, while earning two associate degrees and working in banking, Christina Brown has yearned for a career that would allow her to help others.
On Friday, Brown earned a diploma from the University of South Carolina Beaufort to help her follow that passion. She became the college's first student to earn a bachelor's degree in sociology, which she hopes to parlay into a job helping the homeless or children without families.
Brown was one of 289 graduates, USCB's largest graduating class to date. The students accepted their degrees at a ceremony on the Helen and Brantley Harvey Plaza on the Hilton Head Gateway Campus in Okatie.
Community leader and former Penn Center director Emory Campbell delivered the commencement address and received an honorary degree. Colden Battey Jr., an attorney and former chairman of the Beaufort County Council, also received an honorary degree.
Brown was among 17 students recognized Friday for their performance and leadership in and out of the classroom. She was the first to win the university's Sociology Program Award.
Luke Kerr-Dineen, who has been the editor of the school's paper, the Tidal Tribune, and who served as student body president in 2010-11, was one of two students to win the Sheila J. Tombe Award for Outstanding English Majors. Stefny Ankney was the other winner.
Kerr-Dineen also won the Darwin B. Bashaw Student of the Year Award.
He said he's been most proud of his work at the college's biweekly newspaper, which grew from four pages to 18 pages under his leadership.
He's headed to an internship with Newsweek and The Daily Beast in New York and will pursue a master's degree in journalism at Columbia University in the fall.
Kerr-Dineen said he was grateful for the honors.
"I've put in four years of long hours and late nights," he said. "It's nice to have that recognized."