New VGCC President to address graduates as college celebrates 50 years

Wednesday, May 8, 2019
Composite of 2 photos, one of President Dr. Rachel Desmarais and the other of student Jose Angel De Leon

Dr. Rachel Desmarais, who earlier this year became the seventh president of Vance-Granville Community College, will serve as the principal commencement speaker for the college’s graduation exercises on Friday, May 10. As VGCC celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, Desmarais follows in the footsteps of the school’s first president, Dr. Donald Mohorn, who was the commencement speaker at the first such ceremony, back in 1970.

Jose Angel De Leon of Henderson, president of the VGCC Student Government Association, will be the student speaker.

Nearly 500 students are scheduled to be honored during ceremonies beginning at 6 p.m. at the gazebo by the lake on the college’s Main Campus in Vance County. For those unable to attend the event in person, VGCC will broadcast a live video feed from the ceremony online on its YouTube channel (


The VGCC Board of Trustees selected Dr. Desmarais (pictured above, left) to become the college president in December 2018, while she was serving as the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Forsyth Technical Community College.

Once a student at Forsyth Tech, Desmarais became an adjunct instructor at the community college from 1996 to 1999 while also working in the private sector. She joined Forsyth Tech full-time in 2002 and served in a variety of academic and administrative roles over the next 16 years.

Desmarais earned her doctorate of philosophy in instructional design and technology from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., in 2015 after getting her master’s of science in information technology management from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2003. She earned a bachelor of music degree in voice performance from Mars Hill College in 1992.

She was also among fewer than 40 aspiring and emerging community college presidents nationwide who were chosen for the Aspen Institute Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence in 2017-2018.

De Leon (pictured above, right) is graduating from VGCC with a degree in Criminal Justice Technology. A graduate of Norlina Christian School, he has earned Dean’s List and President’s List honors at the college and has been inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society.

De Leon plans to continue his education at North Carolina Central University, where he will complete a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. His long-term plan is to earn his Ph.D. in criminal justice or criminology and become a college professor. 


Students serving as graduation marshals will be Caroline Williamson of Bullock; Ebony Cotton of Franklinton; Hannah Edwards, Evin Swilley, April Zuniga-Trejo and Leslie Zuniga-Trejo, all of Henderson; Gricel Arroyo of Louisburg; Miranda Brown of Oxford; Rana Alashmali of Timberlake; and Ronnie Brodie, Jr., of Wake Forest.


ronnie brodie

Above: Ronnie Brodie, Jr., of Wake Forest.

Miranda Brown

Above: Miranda Brown of Oxford.

Rana Alashmali

Above: Rana Alashmali of Timberlake.

Ebony Cotton

Above: Ebony Cotton of Franklinton.

Gricel Arroyo

Above: Gricel Arroyo of Louisburg.

Evin Swilley

Above: Evin Swilley of Henderson.

Hannah Edwards

Above: Hannah Edwards of Henderson.

April Zuniga Trejo

Above: April Zuniga-Trejo of Henderson.

Leslie Zuniga Trejo

Above: Leslie Zuniga-Trejo of Henderson.

Caroline Williamson

Above: Caroline Williamson of Bullock.