Alexander Dickson didn't see himself attending a community college in high school. But now that he's about to graduate from one, he said he's become one of HACC's greatest advocates.

"Just because we're a community college doesn't mean we can't be one big family," Dickson said.

Dickson will address more than 850 of his peers when HACC holds its commencement ceremony at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center.

Dickson said this will be his second time at a graduation podium: He was also the speaker for his high school graduation in 2010 at Kennard-Dale in the South Eastern School District. Dickson said he applied for the honor, and will speak about how the aspirations of a community can be a great vehicle for success.

Dickson, a graduate from HACC's York campus, will draw elements from the movie 'Legally Blonde' and its main character Elle Woods, who he said carves out her own path despite a unique way of getting there. Dickson said he, too, is on a path that could take some twists and turns, but he feels his start at HACC has prepared him well for those.

Dickson will graduate with an associate's degree in communications and theater. He's planning to attend another college to earn his bachelor's degree, but he said he's not in any hurry to do so.


Instead, he's directing theater programs at his alma mater, Kennard-Dale, and picking up acting gigs as they pique his interest. He's also working on the sidelines with some communications jobs, and hopes to break into marketing at some point. Dickson said being at a smaller school allows students to gather inspiration from others in a close-knit community.

"It gives them the ability to find themselves, to pursue a different path they didn't think they could do," Dickson said.

Dickson said one of the opportunities he learned from while at college was serving as the vice president of the Student Government Association for two years. While a part of the group, Dickson said he was able to connect with students and faculty that made the college seem even more like family.

Dickson will take the experiences from HACC with him, too. He said his love for the small campus is making him search for other colleges with small populations. Dickson is considering a move to New York City at some point: That way, he could pursue communications further while still having an outlet for his love for theater.

Dickson will borrow a quote from his English professor, Jessica Charlton, who he said has been a mentor to him during his time at HACC. As she put it originally, and as he will say it over the podium on Saturday, "You should never stop loving who you are as a person in spite of reaching great potential."

The ceremony will include students from the Gettysburg, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lebanon and York campuses. The ceremony will take place in the Large Arena at the complex, and degrees will be conferred by HACC President John J. "Ski" Sygielski.

-- Reach Nikelle Snader at