The bright, clear day matched the mood of more than 1,000 people attending the Community College of Aurora’s graduation ceremony on May 7 at the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds Event Center in Aurora. More photos from the day can be found at http://on.fb.me/ieoUWb and http://on.fb.me/mJ0s66.
College president Linda S. Bowman congratulated the graduates and thanked the others in attendance. “This was not possible without your support,” she said. “It was the belief you have in our graduates that helped them run this very long marathon.” To the graduates, she said: “You have created for yourselves and your families and communities a future that will be better and more prosperous.” She also encouraged them to give back in as many ways as possible. “Help other students have the same opportunities that you have had,” she said. “Give back to your communities, and show the leadership skills you’ve learned and honed here at CCA.” She asked that they remember the kind of experience they had at CCA, “among people with diverse backgrounds, diverse cultures, different beliefs, and how we taught each other that learning is not just in the classroom but in the hallways and in other conversations” along the way.
Stacey D’Angelo, theater director and CCA’s faculty of the year, offered an overview of the students who come to the college and outlined the struggles they often face. “If we could glimpse into the lives of each one of you sitting here today, we would find that you all have a story to tell – a story of strength in your heart, mind, body, and soul that led you to this present moment,” she said. “You sit here today as a college graduate, a brave, resilient, inspiring individual who journeys on a path unlike anyone else’s. You’ve given yourself the opportunity for an education that will last longer than the hours you sat in class; it will be woven into the fabric of your being for your lifetime.” She urged graduates: “Don’t lose sight of what you’ve accomplished! Allow yourself to succeed. Ask for what you want from the universe, and be unrelenting in your quest to get it,” she continued. “Step forward when nobody else will. Create your own opportunities. Sing and dance your way through life, and enjoy each and every phase of your story.”
Student remarks were offered by William Kleinman. “One of the most significant life lessons I have learned at college is the distinction between living with adversity and excelling through adversity,” he said. “Living with adversity means we cope with our day-to-day problems, but excelling through adversity is taking those same problems and allowing them to make us great.” Kleinman, who was born with a visual impairment, was once told that he would never be successful in college because of his disability. “Over time, I learned a valuable lesson: I learned not to focus on the problems that I have but to strive and excel through them. All of my fellow graduates have had to, in some way, overcome adversity. Some have had to learn English as a second language; others have juggled two part-time jobs while attending school, and through it, our personal character grows. Let us celebrate today and reexamine the trials we face and let us vow that these trials will not hinder the potential that each and every one of us possesses.”
Dr. Matt Gianneschi, deputy executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, delivered the commencement address. “CCA is a place where one’s economic, personal, and professional challenges can be temporarily set aside while pursuing a life one can only imagine,” he said. “You are now part of a small number of Americans that have completed a college credential, and this is as much a reflection of your character and your commission as it is of your intelligence.
Gianneschi added that now the real work begins. “You are graduating during a time of economic recession of historic proportions; unemployment is at near record highs; but your degree makes you more valuable, more versatile, and more critical to the efforts to grow and attract business to Aurora and to Colorado,” he said. “As graduates—whether you are 18 or 68 years old—you carry with you an ambition and energy that those of us who earned our degrees decades ago cannot match. It is not so much your age as it is your spirit that will allow you to make the kind of changes that we need here in Aurora and throughout the nation and in this world. And we are counting on you to do just that.”
He encouraged them to follow their dreams. “Today, you are ready to step out into that world with sharp minds and adventurous spirit—a spirit of adventure that made this country great, if not perfect,” he said. “As you set out to live your own story of success and achievement, it’s your turn to keep this daringly radical, but unfailingly simple, notion of America alive—that no matter where you were born, how much your parents had, no matter what you look like or what you believe in, you can still rise to become whatever you want.”
Ledy Garcia-Eckstein, member, Colorado State Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education, also offered remarks and presided over the presentation of diplomas.
CCA Vice President for Administration Richard Maestas presided over the ceremony. The prelude and processional was performed by the Community College of Aurora Jazz Band.