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Helping the community is important to this year's Mercer student commencement speaker

From being a Goldwater Scholar to helping build battery-powered toy cars for kids with mobility issues, this grad has a lot to celebrate.

MACON, Ga. — Graduation season is underway and in 2017, Mercer University started having student commencement speakers for the graduation ceremonies.

From being a Goldwater Scholar to helping build battery-powered toy cars for kids with mobility issues, this grad has a lot to celebrate.

Warner Robins High School grad Sarah Spalding is excited to be the 6th Mercer student to give a commencement speech. She says her mentors motivated her to apply for the honor.

"I had two of my mentors that I have worked closely with throughout the years say that I would be a good fit for it and they encouraged me to do it," said Spalding.

Some family members didn't believe it was true after hearing she was selected.

"I called my parents immediately and they didn't believe me at first," said Spalding.

Helping the community is important to Spalding, which is why she helped produce a 3D touch yearbook for the Georgia Academy for the Blind, and taught English and robotics on a mission trip to Korea. She also led research projects at the start of the pandemic to measure the effectiveness of different face mask materials. 

What led her to walk across the stage and get a degree in biomedical engineering has family ties.

"My younger sister Hannah was born with 50% hearing loss. When she was younger, they [hearing aids] were huge and other kids would ask her about them. She was very insecure and she didn't want to wear them, but she had to. My goal coming into college was to make hearing aids smaller," said Spalding.

And it's a goal she hopes to accomplish when she begins her graduate school journey at Georgia Tech this fall.

This month, Mercer will graduate more than 2,300 graduates across its five campuses.

If you're attending Monday's ceremony, you'll also hear from Macon-Bibb Mayor Lester Miller (a Mercer grad) and Mike Mills, the bass player for the band R.E.M., who is receiving an honorary doctor of humanities degree.

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