QCS Photo: Kevin Wilson
Tonja Walker gets a congratulatory hug after Friday's Mesalands Community College graduation at the Tucumcari High School Auditorium.
A college graduate can look ahead to the opportunities they’ve just created for themselves. That same graduate can also look back at the sacrifices made to earn that diploma.
Still, others choose to just live in the moment. That was one of many pieces of advice doled out Friday to the 51 associate graduates and 24 students who earned certification from Mesalands Community College.
“Our graduates have committed long hours and made huge sacrifices ... to reach this new level of achievement,” MCC President Phillip Barry said.
Graduates received either an Associate of Arts degree or an Associate of Applied Science degree — one student, Myra Jean Amparano, received both. Certification was given for students in the fields of farrier science, fine arts, nail technology and truck driving.
Regardless of the honor earned, graduation speaker Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis, said their work will pay off whether or not they continue their education at a four-year college.
“The piece of paper will probably allow you to earn $5,000 to $8,000 a year more than somebody with a high school diploma,” Harden said. “I know these students have made a financial commitment to themselves and their future.”
Above all, Harden delivered a message of “Way to go,” telling students it was OK to just consider the degree they’ve earned without the work they did before or the work they’ll do later.
Tonja Walker could certainly relate. A 1998 graduate of Tucumcari High School, Walker started by taking a few classes at Clovis Community College and MCC. Now, Walker works at the college as a data technician and tutor, and she is going to stay in her present position for a while.
“I’m going to take a semester off,” said Walker, who plans to be a certified public accountant, “and then I’m going to do some online courses, probably Franklin University (in Columbus, Ohio).”
Though it didn’t end at the graduation ceremony, Walker said her Mesalands experience has been worthwhile.
“It’s been really good,” Walker said. “Your teachers are there for you. They really care about their students.”
While students like Walker will keep their lives the same for a while, Harden advises they also do as Walker does and plan accordingly for the future.
“Where you’re going makes a big difference in where you are,” Harden said, “and where you are today is remarkable.”
Barry also gave an honorary associate’s degree to Educational Services Center Aide Lucy Sandoval. Sandoval has taught for 17 years, helping many students receive a general equivalency diploma.
“She had only four children,” Barry said, “but in reality she had hundreds, perhaps thousands of children. She helped me and others see the reason the college was important to this community.”