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Aiken finally collects his diploma

'American Idol' runnerup graduates from UNC-Charlotte with special education degree
/ Source: The Associated Press

“American Idol” runner-up Clay Aiken walked across a different kind of stage this weekend for a distinctive honor — his college degree.

Aiken, who vaulted from obscurity to pop music stardom, graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte on Saturday, receiving a bachelor of arts degree in special education.

“American Idol” has made Aiken a multiplatinum recording sensation, but he was just another face in the crowd at the graduation ceremony. His name was not mentioned until he walked across the stage, the last of 593 degree recipients.

“One among you has received a bit more attention and he would like to speak to his class,” Chancellor James Woodward told the audience.

“This has been an amazing year for me,” Aiken said upon getting his diploma. “This is more special to me than a lot of the things that have happened to me this year, because what happens here today says something to people. This is a day that makes for all of us a statement ... how important it is to persevere and continue to work and strive to succeed.”

Aiken later announced several initiatives by the Bubel Aiken Foundation, a charitable organization started this summer to help disabled children. Aiken was a mentor to Mike Bubel, a teenager with autism, while studying at UNCC.