While many colleges and universities bring in big names as commencement speakers, Trident Technical College decided this year to take a different approach.

By the numbers

48 years since Trident Tech was founded674 graduates attended Friday’s ceremony15 students auditioned to be commencement speakers1,916 students are eligible for graduation2,364 associate degrees, diplomas and certificates were earned. 90 percent job placement rate for the class of 2011.Source: Trident Technical College

“We decided instead of having guest speakers, let’s focus this year on our own product,” said President Mary Thornley.

Justin Morris and Faith Callum were chosen to speak by the leaders of the school’s student organizations.

“They were two great stories that were told, but frankly there could have been 2,000 great stories told,” Thornley said.

Morris, who earned an associate degree in Culinary Arts Technology, and Callum, who got an associate degree in Radiologic Technology, were among 674 graduates who walked across the stage Friday at the North Charleston Coliseum as part of the biggest graduating class in the college’s 48-year history.

Morris, 25, who is a head line cook at Fulton Five restaurant, graduated from Summerville High School in 2004 with a 1.9 grade point average.

“The thing I worked hardest at was not working hard,” he said. “A couple of months later, I joined the Marine Corps, and a few friendly drill instructors managed to change all that. It didn’t take long for me to realize that hard work and dedication were the tools for success and that my parents were right.”

He enrolled at Trident in 2010 and graduated Friday with a 3.85 grade point average.

Callum, 28, was one of several children raised by her grandmother in Union Heights. She gave birth to a daughter, T’shyra, at age 16.

“I finished Hanahan High School by the skin of my chinny-chin-chin,” she said. “Unfortunately, I was hanging with the wrong crowd, cutting school and stuff like that.”

After high school, she worked for a cellphone company, but soon realized that she was working many more hours to make ends meet than her mother, aunt and uncle — all Trident Tech graduates.

She decided to enroll. “It has completely changed my entire life,” she said. “I never thought I’d be able to wake up in the morning and be excited and happy to go to work.”

She is a radiologic technologist at Roper St. Francis Healthcare.

“I just cannot believe that I have overcome all the obstacles I had growing up,” she said. “I was that young African-American woman they said would never make it. I never saw the potential in myself until I went to Trident Tech. And now that I’m a graduate, I can work less hours and get the same pay — actually a little bit more — than I was before.”

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or www.facebook.com/brindge.