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Belmont Staff Recognized as ‘Agents of Hope’ for Inaugural Year 

Five staff members were recognized throughout the 2022-23 academic year for going above and beyond their roles on campus to shine as beacons of hope. The University Staff Advisory Council (USAC) presented the awards for the first time this year as a way to recognize more staff on campus who may not have the longevity to be selected for the Gabhart Award and to honor President Dr. Greg Jones and his direction for Belmont.  

Though winners were presented their awards throughout the year, Leigh Hitchcock, Arlie Paris, Katherine Cornelius, Matt Rollins and Misty Wellman were collectively recognized at the USAC Spirit Week programming on May 12. 

The awards were: 

Hope Inspiring – Leigh Hitchcock, Honors Assistant Director 

  • A hope-inspiring person is someone who leads with kindness and generosity. They are someone who seeks to solve the world’s problems and improve the lives of those around them by choosing to be a light in the world – and inspires others to do the same.  

Leigh’s nominator wrote: Leigh embodies the spirit of steadfast hope. She is calm, generous with her time and a whiz at remembering details. One specific way she inspires hope is through tirelessly advising Belmont Global Honors students, many of whom have lots of different interests and who, especially in their first and second years at Belmont, are trying to find what “lights them up.” As students ponder changing their majors or struggle with family or personal issues, Leigh takes the time to listen, to hear them and to give them perspective and hope.  

Character Forming – Arlie Paris, Program Assistant for the School of Occupational Therapy 

  • A character-forming person is someone who exhibits a passion for thinking, feeling, perceiving and living like Christ. They are someone who consistently invests in the molding of our students so that they are fully formed academically, emotionally, physically, culturally and spiritually.  

Arlie’s nominator wrote: Arlie models how to be a true servant leader. She builds community, improves morale and shares the love of Christ each and every day. From day one, she approached her role in our department with enthusiasm and confidence, and she truly treats everyone with the utmost respect. She has helped create a positive, welcoming and loving culture in our department and for our students on campus. Arlie is one of the first faces that our incoming students see during their orientation, and she embraces them with such positivity and grace. She supports students in their growth by consistently listening to their perspectives, meeting them where they are and encouraging them to take the next step. She is an enhancer: she takes others’ ideas and dreams and facilitates them coming to fruition. And, she does all this while pursuing her own academic and professional goals.   

Future Shaping – Catherine Cornelius, Director of Counseling Services 

  • A future-shaping person is someone who remains determined to solve the challenges facing our students, our community and our world by “skating to where the puck is going.” They demonstrate a commitment to helping communities grow and develop the skills necessary to take on the future.  

Katherine’s nominator wrote: Katherine is the embodiment of Future Shaping. During her tenure as the director, she has completely remade the center into what is offered at the leading edge of college counseling services. From the introduction of new and innovative group therapy programs to training her staff in the latest therapeutic methods to meet the changing and evolving needs of our students. Katherine has always been encouraging in her care and concern for staff as well, especially for the cumulative effect our work has on caregivers and first responders. Katherine has been unwavering in her willingness to train our staff in crisis intervention and care.   

Community Engaging – Matt Rollins, Event Operations Coordinator  

  • A community-engaging person is someone who regularly invests time and effort into meeting the needs of the community and making life abundant for all. They open the doors of opportunity for all members of our community in Belmont, in Nashville and beyond.  

Matt’s nominator wrote: Matt always has a great attitude and works every event tirelessly. Matt has taken on the responsibility of training and mentoring the Event Services Student Workers before they are put out on their own to function and lead a team. Matt will always drop everything he is doing to help someone else with a problem or challenge. Matt exemplifies the meaning of family and the Belmont Family. 

Bridge Building – Misty Wellman, Budget Manager for the College of Health Sciences 

  • A bridge-building person is someone who radically champions the thriving of our neighbors through the simple acts of loving our neighbors as ourselves and honoring each other and our differences. They demonstrate hospitality and inclusivity in order to fulfill the Greatest Commandment: Love God, love neighbor.  

Misty’s nominator wrote: Misty is a servant leader who demonstrates her love for her colleagues through service on committees that pour into their personal lives to enhance well-being. Misty co-leads the Fellowship of Faith on Wednesday mornings – an intentional time for faculty and staff to gather and share a time of spiritual reflection and prayer. Misty also has been an active leader on the CHS Wellness committee – again creating space and opportunities for her colleagues to renew and take care of their overall well-being. Misty is a consistent advocate for those who need a voice – she was President of USAC and spoke up for many issues and concerns to help build bridges between various staff groups and other stakeholders. Misty cares deeply about her colleagues and the work culture at Belmont. She lives the Belmont values and shines her light to lift others up whenever she has opportunity. 

Take a Glance at Belmont’s Fine Arts Camp Offerings for Summer 2023

Belmont will host students of all ages at various dates in June for its annual Summer Fine Arts Camps,* with options to focus on guitar, piano, preparatory piano, strings, band, voice or theatre. These camps offer young musicians and thespians the opportunity to dive deeply into a dynamically diverse week of learning in a variety of styles and genres – just minutes from Music Row. 

Belmont will also offer professional development for teachers, hosting both the Tennessee Arts Academy on campus July 9 – 14 and FAME-Endorsed Teacher Trainer Emily Maurek as she provides the First Steps in Music Certification Course June 20-24. First Steps is a developmentally appropriate music education framework for instruction with techniques that provide pathways to meeting students where they are in their musical development, no matter the age or ability. 

Belmont’s Summer Fine Arts Camps are structured to focus on intensive immersion in a variety of settings including masterclasses, workshops and participation in large and small ensembles, culminating in a camp performance in one of the University’s many performance halls. This format pushes students to enhance their unique talents while also allowing them to explore new topics and skillsets.  

Campers will spend time with others from all around the country who share the same passions and interests and create connections that will last past the culmination of camp week into college and careers. Additionally, campers will learn from and build relationships with Belmont’s world-renowned music and theatre faculty who actively work in the Nashville performing arts industry. These successful musicians and performers record, perform and teach in the Nashville area and tour with artists around the world.  

Camp participants will also get a glimpse into what it’s like to be a student in Belmont’s College of Music and Performing Arts. Those who are interested in learning more about Belmont have the opportunity to connect with University Admissions, receive information about the application and audition process, tour campus and hear from current students about their experience at Belmont. 

Belmont camps aim to build a complete artist, helping students find and craft their own unique voice by immersing them in the study of high-level artistry in a variety of styles and genres, completing camp energized, engaged and excited about continuing their artistic journeys. 

For more information, visit Belmont University’s Summer Fine Arts Camp or contact Carrie Kimbrough. 

*Note: Camp slots are going quickly, with camps emphasizing guitar, piano and vocal arts for sopranos and altos already full. 

Jobs of the Future

Belmont University is nearing the close of the inaugural year of its Jobs of the Future initiative—a program aimed to support and reimagine the changing workforce. Launched quietly in August 2022, the program develops a new opportunity pipeline and envisions entry-level jobs that do not yet exist, meeting both market demands and the needs of campus neighbors who are seeking a career path.  

Leading the initiative is Senior Director Dr. Andy White, who formerly served as a dean at Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin. “People presume the program is about jobs in artificial intelligence or some advanced, cutting-edge science. In actuality, we are building partnerships to help folks who might not believe college is an option and adults who are working but struggling to make ends meet. We are working with partners to help these neighbors understand, prepare for, and excel in the education and training opportunities already available and to help them achieve greater career and earnings dividends when they do.” 

The program focuses on two areas and collaborates with local community partners. The first seeks to increase college readiness and success for high school students in low-income families through relationships with Metro Nashville Public Schools, Nashville State Community College, and local non-profits and area employers. The second is to help underemployed adults rapidly complete training opportunities needed to enhance their job options and earning power, through relationships with The Branch in Antioch, Belmont’s Family Wellness Program and Workforce Essentials, an organization that provides career and job training counsel and referrals throughout Middle Tennessee.   

A complement to the Belmont Accelerator for Social Innovation Collaboration (BASIC) program, Jobs of the Future will prepare participants for “middle skills” positions widely prevalent in today’s economy, those requiring more education than a high school diploma and less than a bachelor’s degree. While these roles provide work with dignity, a living wage and benefits plans, many employers still struggle to find enough qualified people to fill them.   

“Belmont’s call to whole person formation embraces every aspect of a person’s development, including helping people find their way and discover their purpose,” said Dr. Amy Crook. “One way Belmont is helping people understand their own sense of purpose in the world is through the Jobs of the Future program. It’s a dream to create and facilitate an opportunity pipeline tailored for folks who have faced obstacles to thriving in our region.” 

To date, the program has been cultivating the relationships needed to design and launch a pilot program, expected during the 2023-2024 academic year, with opportunities for Belmont students to serve as peer mentors.  

The Jobs of the Future team grew recently with the addition of Bridget Golden who serves as associate director. With more than two decades of higher education experience, Golden most recently served as a relational completion advisor at Volunteer State Community College providing academic and coordinating a mentorship program.  

“Education changes lives. I am thrilled to bring my skills building partnerships and connecting people as I join the dynamic team at Belmont with the Jobs of the Future Program,” said Golden. “I look forward to inspiring hope and engaging with our community.” 

Belmont Data Collaborative Announces New Health Equity Collaboration Focused on Mental Health

Fresh off its first community project focused on hypertension in Nashville, the Belmont Data Collaborative (BDC) announced the launch of Project WELL, a new health equity initiative focused on addressing mental health concerns in young Nashvillians.

In partnership with community funding from CaringWays, a trusted crowdfunding platform for healthcare-related expenses, BDC’s role in the initiative will focus on using data to identify populations across Nashville who have the greatest need for mental health care resources. This data will then inform the deployment of resources, with help from nonprofit partner Accessia Health, to support Nashville’s greatest needs.

Wes Sellers, CaringWays co-founder and CEO and Belmont alumnus (MBA, ‘07), connected with BDC Executive Director Charlie Apigian last year after hearing about the Data Collaborative’s successful hypertension project. Sellers was looking for data to support a project created by Baltimore Ravens Defensive End Calais Campbell that provided mental health therapy to area teenagers, emphasizing the normality of seeing a therapist, specifically among the Black community. With vested interest in mental health for many personal reasons, BDC staff quickly signed on and partnered with commercial real estate firm Avison Young to provide the needed data to inform the project’s funding strategy.

This successful project in Baltimore inspired the idea to do something similar, but on a bigger scale, in Nashville. Project WELL is now underway, with a goal of $1.2 million raised to support and provide mental health care, reduce stigma and generate awareness.

“When you align big data and big dollars, you have the ability to convene people and move toward action, which leads to longitudinal effects,” said Sellers. “We have big partners on board for this project, focused on speaking against the stigma of mental health and raising awareness through storytelling. Data, funding and smart philanthropic partnerships are the three legs of the stool, and we are excited to have these elements in place to make this project successful.”

BDC is using its new DDIA thinking model (Dilemma, Data, Insights, Action) to approach Project WELL. Currently in the “dilemma” phase of the framework, BDC is working through researching and defining the population the project will focus on.

For now, BDC is examining Nashvillians ages 18 – 39, the populations where the greatest spike of mental health issues is typically seen. The team will look at where a difference could be made in terms of environmental factors, using the data Avison Young supplied to get an initial look at the Nashville landscape. BDC will then create a model based on social determinants of mental health that will allow the mental health community to see what hasn’t been seen before – looking at populations that have previously been unaccounted for to understand which communities need more resources.

“Data is a convener, and it brings good people together,” added Apigian. “Through this project, we will be able to empower and inspire others through data, while engaging more partners in supporting this important cause.”

BDC’s initial report will be available in August and will serve as a conversation starter to identify community partners, begin deeper analysis and uncover areas to take action. Meanwhile, CaringWays will begin fundraising efforts. For more information on how to join this conversation and support BDC’s work related to mental health, visit belmontdata.org.

The Fisher Center at Belmont University to Host 2023 Nashville Mayoral Debates 

Belmont University will host a televised debate on May 18 for the leading candidates for Nashville mayor. Candidates will join co-moderator David Plazas from The Tennessean and Carrie Sharp from News Channel 5 on stage for a 90-minute question and answer session.  

Of the fifteen candidates that have petitioned to run for mayor, nine will participate in Thursday’s debate. Debate participants were chosen based on two factors: 

  • The candidate raised at least $50,000 by the March 31 reporting period of the Davidson County Election Commission.  
  • The candidate presently holds an elective office in a county or legislative capacity. 

“It is not a perfect formula,” Plazas said. “But we believe it will allow us to focus on candidates who have made a concerted and organized effort to court voters’ support and/or who have a record of current public service.” 

The panel of candidates include State Senator for District 20 Heidi Campbell, at-large Metro Council member Sharon Hurt, District 19 Council member Freddie O’Connell, Davidson County property assessor Vivian Wilhoite, State Senator for District 21 Jeff Yarbro, former educator Natisha Brooks, AllianceBernstein COO Jim Gingrich, business strategist and former political aide Alice Rolli and former economic development and housing executive Matt Wiltshire.  

The debate series is sponsored by The Tennessean, NewsChannel 5 and the League of Women Voters of Nashville, with Belmont University hosting May and June debates and American Baptist College hosting the July 6 event. in-person tickets for the Nashville Mayoral Debate on May 18 can be reserved here. The event will also air on NewsChannel 5, starting at 5:30 p.m. Get updated mayoral debate information from The Tennessean.  

Nashville Mayoral Debate Dates and Locations  

  • May 18 at Belmont’s Fisher Center 
  • June 22 at Belmont’s Fisher Center 
  • July 6 at American Baptist College 
  • August 24 at Belmont’s Fisher Center 

Exit 207: The Soul of Nashville

In its second iteration, Belmont’s “Documentary Project” course recently premiered the film “Exit 207: The Soul of Nashville,” in the Fisher Center on May 4.

At the film’s private premiere, Nashville Public Television’s CEO Becky Magura announced that she would like to air the film on NPT, leaving a palpable gasp of excitement and overwhelming applause throughout the performance hall.

Dubbed “the ultimate group project,” the course is housed within Curb College where 19 students from various disciplines—including journalism, emerging media, motion pictures and audio engineering—collaborated to discover, examine and film all aspects of a complex human story. With research assistance from Honors students, the interdisciplinary class used those elements to write, edit and produce a short, Nashville-focused documentary throughout two semesters. In total, nearly 55 students contributed to the film representing more than 25 areas of study.

Advised by Emmy-award-winning assistant professor Jen Duck along with 30-year film editing veteran and motion pictures lecturer Jennifer Bergen, the 2022-23 Documentary Project class was instructed to find their topic by looking at Nashville through a social justice lens. Author, historian and associate professor Dr. Mary Ellen Pethel provided research direction for the project.

The team chose to study Jefferson Street in North Nashville, a historically black community whose neighborhood was deeply affected by the construction of Interstate 40 in the 1950s. Their film, “Exit 207: The Soul of Nashville,” tells the story of how the interstate highway system changed the trajectory of this once-thriving community and was made possible through the Belmont-Fisk Social Justice Collaboration.

“The difficulty of embarking on the project was immediately evident when the team sat down in September to choose a topic for this documentary,” said senior Chase Thomson, the film’s director of photography. “We came to the consensus of choosing a story that spoke to the way Nashville’s gentrification is pushing out its natives.”

While gentrification has swept throughout the city, some of the North Nashville neighborhood has remained untouched by developers, leaving remnants of the area’s rich history. The film seeks to tell the story of why the community looks drastically different today than it did prior to World War II, giving voice to the people of Jefferson Street.

“Though the story is marked by targeted gentrification and destruction, it also is one of hope, as we have discovered ways the community still thrives through the people we met and interviewed in the process of creating this documentary,” said Thomson.

In its former glory, Jefferson Street was home to prosperous businesses and rock’n’roll and rhythm and blues clubs, welcoming artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles and Billy Cox. The film team sought to interview those directly affected by Nashville’s expansion to tell their own story, in hopes of celebrating the neighborhood’s rich culture.

“This was the place to be over here on Jefferson Street,” said Lorenzo Washington, founder of the Jefferson Street Sound Museum. “All of that has changed, and it changed when the interstate came through. The residents moved out, and when the residents start moving out, the businesses start shutting down and moving out.”

The Documentary Project team celebrated the film’s completion with a private premiere in the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, surrounded by their families, documentary participants and members of the community.

“The students are to be applauded for this effort,” said interviewee Dr. Learotha Williams, Jr. “This project afforded the students an opportunity to gaze into the rich history of North Nashville and Jefferson Street and its prospects for the future through the eyes of some of its most beloved residents.  It was a psalm of memory, intercessory prayer and a call to action to protect and preserve the history of Jefferson Street and the North Nashville community.”

Attendees were invited to ask the students questions

Those interviewed for the project include:

  • Lorenzo Washington, Founder & Curator of Jefferson Street Sound Museum
  • Dr. Ken Spring, associate professor of sociology at Belmont University
  • Dr. Learotha Williams, Jr., historian, and scholar at Tennessee State University
  • Carlos Partee, co-founder of Nashville Black Market
  • Caroline Rosenberg, relator
  • Sen. Charlene Oliver, state senator
  • LaDonna Boyd, president and CEO of R.H. Boyd Publishing Corporation
  • Rev. Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Jr., minister, educator and civil rights advocate
  • Linda Wynn, assistant director for state programs, State of Tennessee.

Following the premiere during a Q&A, an elementary-aged Metro Nashville Public Schools student asked how Belmont plans to keep this going. The resounding response was, “Through you, the community.” The next iteration of the class—slated for the 2024-2025 academic year—will continue to lean into stories the community wants to tell and will continue the foundation built through the Exit 207 film.

The documentary will enter film festivals this summer and will be available to view online concluding the festival circuit.

Spring 2023 Dean’s List Announced at Belmont University 

Belmont recently released the list of students who qualified for the University’s Spring 2023 Dean’s List. Approximately 49 percent of Belmont’s 6,552 undergraduate students were named. 

Belmont Provost Dr. David Gregory said, “For Belmont’s vision of becoming the leading Christ-centered university in the world to be realized, having a student body that is keenly committed to academic excellence, among other things is required. Dean’s List achievements are consistently earned by a high percentage of the student body, giving evidence of an ever-increasing regard for scholarship across all programs. It is an honor to have a body of students as dedicated to stellar academic performance as it is to extra and co-curricular excellence.” 

Dean’s List eligibility is based on a minimum course load of 12 hours and a quality grade point average of 3.5 with no grade below a C. 

Belmont’s Eco Club Wins Turning Green’s Project Green Challenge

Belmont’s Eco Club recently won Turning Green’s Project Green Challenge (PGC) competition. The 12th annual PGC global initiative features thousands of high school, undergraduate and graduate participants from more than 700 schools in 48 states and 68 countries.

The competition is anchored in a month-long period of environmentally themed challenges designed to equip students with knowledge and resources needed to enact change for a more just world. Fourteen finalists from six nations were announced at the November 2022 eco summit in San Francisco, bringing together climate activists, leaders, speakers, mentors and ambassadors from around the world.

Belmont’s Eco Club was among the finalists and included students Elma Jashim, Linnea Lyons, Abigail Marianetti and Lauren Merrill. The team went on to present their work at a virtual conference in April. As the competition winners, the team received a $5,000 Acure Green Award and the grand prize package. 

As part of their submission to the competition, the Eco Club developed its climate action project, creating environmental justice curriculum which the team hopes will be implemented into Belmont’s new Thomas F. Frist, Jr. College of Medicine.

The team’s project looked at the correlation of environmental justice with medical disparities within communities and sought to integrate their findings into medical education.  

“This is something that I’m personally really passionate about,” said senior biology student Jashim. “Our climate action project is to try and incorporate environmental justice into medical education.”

Environmental justice, Jashim explained, is the idea that environmental injustices or environmental issues have a disproportionate impact on marginalized groups. She described areas such as Flint, Michigan, Cancer Alley in Louisiana, and other communities that have experienced adverse health effects due to their proximity to environmental injustices.  

“This is unfortunately a topic that I don’t think is addressed enough in medical education. Very few medical schools have lectures or classes dedicated to the intersection between environmental justice and health, and so we wanted to address this deficit.” 

Missy Martin, former Belmont student and 2015 winner of the PGC competition, mentored this year’s team. Reflecting on her experiences in winning the competition and being involved since then through the mentorship program, Martin said, “It’s very cool how everything came full circle!”  

As fourth-year students, Jashim spoke of her team’s desire to be involved in a way that could make a real difference on campus and in the world before graduation. By exploring their passions and working to enact positive change in the community, these students have left their marks on Belmont’s campus. 

University Resources Support Mental Health and Wellbeing  

May is National Mental Health Month, conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to raise awareness around mental health and the devastating effects that trauma can have on the mental, emotional and physical health of those who experience it. This year, NAMI is celebrating Mental Health Month with the “More Than Enough” campaign, designed to emphasize the inherent worth of every person and encourage them to know that they are more than enough as they are.

Belmont’s Pathway 3 on the Strategic Trajectory to 2030 emphasizes the University’s commitment to promoting whole-person wellness through an integrative approach to health and wellbeing, as the health and wellbeing of each member in the Belmont community is integral to the whole of our community. Through creating environments of belonging, Belmont encourages students, faculty and staff to lead healthy lives which ultimately culminates in every person developing their own sense of vision and purpose.

“Mental health is a key component of holistic health and well-being,” said Pathway 3 catalyst and director of Be Well BU, Adam Pace. “Our mental health has a tremendous impact on all aspects of our wellness, so it is important to be aware of how other dimensions of wellness impact our mental health and emotional well-being. Mental health does not exist in isolation from these other factors, and at Belmont we always strive to address the wellbeing of the whole person.”

Belmont offers numerous resources for navigating mental health struggles and maintaining overall mental wellness.

Students are able to schedule an initial appointment with a Belmont clinician to talk through what plan of care makes sense for them. Appointments are offered in person and online as Belmont takes a personalized, flexible care approach that provides free and easy access to short-term mental health care.

Free, confidential mental and physical health support is available 24/7 to all students through Timely Care, which can be accessed through the MyBelmont portal.

Students, faculty and staff can check in with their mental health through TAO (Therapy Assistance Online), a free and private self-help resource. TAO offers a guided self-assessment and tools designed to help process stress, anxiety, depression and more.

Finally, Belmont offers a list of additional resources designed to help students, faculty and staff find access to mental health care in the Nashville area.

Belmont encourages the University community to take National Mental Health Month as a chance to engage more fully in developing and maintaining mental wellness, in the hopes that these habits will continue far past this month alone and establish healthy mindsets for a lifetime.

Belmont Celebrates 2023 Spring Commencement

Belmont University held its spring 2023 commencement ceremonies for graduate and undergraduate students on Friday, May 5 and Saturday, May 6 in the Curb Event Center. Across the three ceremonies, the University recognized the graduation of 1,511 students, including 1,069 bachelor’s candidates and 442 master’s and doctoral candidates.

Belmont President Dr. Greg Jones presided over the events and presented the commencement address at all ceremonies. “My hope is that you go forth from this place with competencies, skills and gifts that a rigorous education in your field will enable you to accomplish. Go with character that will nurture unlikely friendships, help encourage others and inspire us all to help reweave the social fabric in life-giving ways.” 

During the Friday evening and Saturday afternoon ceremonies, Dr. Jones also awarded special honorary Doctor of University degrees to individuals who have greatly impacted both Belmont and the Nashville community: Joe and Anne Russell and CeCe Winans.  

Belmont University Board Chair Milton Johnson, President Greg Jones, CeCe Winans, Provost David Gregory

Honorary degrees have been presented by American colleges and universities since 1962 in recognition of scholarly and creative attainments, as well as for meritorious humanitarian service. Belmont is selective in bestowing this award as the highest honor presented by the University. 

Both current Board of Trustee members, Joe and Anne Russell gave a $4 million endowment in 2016 to support the University’s Bell Tower Scholars program, which has provided hundreds of Metro Nashville Public School graduates access to a Belmont education. CeCe Winans, also a former Trustee, is a Belmont parent and is set to begin her Residency with The Fisher Center at Belmont during the fall 2023 semester where she will host seminars, speak in chapel and perform a stop on her “Believe For It” tour in September. 

Nadine Ezat Sadik, a bachelor’s candidate who majored in legal studies, delivered the Saturday afternoon student address. “As I stand before you as a first generation, Egyptian-American and Belmont University graduate, I am filled with gratitude and humility. Belmont has opened doors for me that I never even knew existed. Because of my time at Belmont, I am able to think critically and creatively about the world around me. I am able to consider opinions that are different than my own and found my voice along the way.”  

Recordings of all ceremonies are available on the University’s YouTube channel. View photos from the Friday evening, Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon ceremonies.