A college campus security guard is gaining national attention after the release of a video that shows her emotional “congratulations” and “goodbye” hugs to High Point University’s class of 2023.
“It was just an amazing moment,” Valerie Baxter, 63, of High Point, North Carolina, told Fox News Digital.
“The minute the first student came over to hug me, my heart got so full and I could not cut off the tears. And then they all started coming over.”
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Yet Baxter, who has worked for the university for 12 years, didn’t think anything of it — and she certainly did not know she was being recorded.
Giving hugs and well wishes is something she does every day on the job, whether she’s working at a welcome station or patrolling around campus, Baxter said.
“We hugged the whole four years they were here, not just on graduation day,” she added.
In the video, shot by Lucas Verdeur, a content creator for High Point University’s (HPU) communications department, Baxter is seen wiping away tears and patting her hand on her heart as she embraces students heading to their seats at the university’s 2023 commencement ceremony on May 6.
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“I just saw a moment unfolding and trusted my instinct and just started filming,” Verdeur told Fox News Digital.
He got to know Baxter during his undergraduate studies and while earning his master’s degree, he said.
“I edited the video down to a minute-and-a-half, but I had over five minutes of footage of students just hugging her and telling her they loved her,” Verdeur said.
“It was completely unplanned. They were giving her one last hug before they graduated.”
Verdeur said the end result was more meaningful than he ever could have imagined.
“It was genuine and authentic,” Verdeur said. “It was ‘Ms. Val’ in her truest form. That’s not her on graduation day, that’s her every day,” he said.
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Annie Borovskiy, a rising senior sports management major from Langhorne, Pennsylvania, met Baxter on move-in day in the fall of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Ms. Val was at the checkpoint where you register and get your key,” Borovskiy told Fox News Digital.
“You know, my mom’s trying to take pictures and she’s emotional. Ms. Val greeted us and I remember her telling my mom, ‘I’ve got Annie, Mom. We love her already.’”
That’s one of the things Baxter said was going through her mind as she hugged the graduates at this year’s ceremony.
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“These babies had to endure a lot during the height of the coronavirus,” Baxter said.
“The transformation of the campus, all the adjustments. So, we had to give that extra love and that extra portion, that extra care, to these babies throughout their time here,” she added. “They are such a special group.”
Seventy-three percent of High Point students come from out of state and far from home.
“I think she gets it that a lot of the student population from High Point does come from far away, whether that be from the Northeast or from California or Florida,” Borovskiy said.
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“She knows that she’s a sense of comfort to us,” Borovskiy added.
On any given day, Baxter can be seen and heard celebrating students’ successes as they cross her path on campus.
“She is by far the biggest supporter on campus,” Joseph Maronski, a 2023 graduate with degrees in journalism and political science from Miller Place, New York, told Fox News Digital.
“If you have something good that happened, Ms. Val will find out, and she will make sure she goes out of her way to congratulate you,” he added.
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Maronski said Baxter is there for students during tough times, too.
“She’s also there to lift us up when we fail or when we’re having a hard time or to give us a pep talk before a final or an exam,” Maronski said.
“She’d say, ‘I’m not stressed because I know that you’re fine.’ She is just a calming force. She’s just a constant for so many people during college, which is a huge time of change for a lot of people,” he added.
Baxter, who has a grown son of her own, is like a mom away from home, Verdeur said.
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“Everyone who comes to this campus, whether you’re a current student, an incoming family on a tour, it does not matter — she makes you feel like you’ve known her for 10 years,” Verdeur said.
Graduation isn’t the first time Baxter has made headlines for her cheerful spirit.
In 2014, she used her own money to replace a child’s bicycle that disappeared during a community Christmas event on campus.
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“There were 25,000 people there, walking through campus and looking at the lights — and somehow his bicycle went missing,” Baxter recalled. “I felt really sorry for him and I wanted to do something to help.”
Baxter purchased the bike and brought it to work with her the next day — but had no idea how to find the boy.
After the university helped her locate the child, she was able to present him with the new bicycle.
“He was just so grateful,” Baxter recalled.
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Verdeur estimates that Baxter received “a couple of hundred hugs, between that line in the video and when students came off the stage after receiving their diplomas.”
He said she also received three HPU blankets from students.
“The blankets are an HPU tradition for the students to give to someone who made an impact in their life,” Verdeur said.
“Usually, students give it to their parents, but three this year gave it to Ms. Val and seven last year did the same.”
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Baxter said her best advice for the 2023 graduating class is the same advice she’s given to the ones before.
“It really doesn’t matter if the glass is half full or half empty,” she said. “Just learn to be grateful for the glass.”
That perspective is why Baxter’s coworkers and friends are cheering her on.
“She’s like the angel of High Point,” Borovskiy said.
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“She really just has so much love in her heart to take all of us under her wing.” Verdeur agreed.
“It is just so special to see her getting into the national spotlight,” Verdeur said, “because she’s the most deserving person. Her attitude, her outlook, her message — it’s everything.”
And, while she’s grateful, Baxter said she’s taking her newfound celebrity in stride.
“All this has just been beyond my wildest dreams, but what has come to me about this experience is the fact that High Point University is a God, country, family university,” she said.
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“I’m so grateful to be able to really show the culture that is represented on this campus. All of this is just not about people responding to me or me being appreciated or recognized,” she said.
“It’s all about the God in me being recognized. And that’s what I’m grateful for.”