PINAL COUNTY, AZ – Central Arizona College recognized the accomplishments of its graduates during a district commencement ceremony on Friday, May 12 at Casa Grande Union High School.
After a welcome and introductions conducted by Dr. Mary Kay Gilliland, Vice President of Academic Affairs, the graduates were addressed by Judge Delia Neal.
Following Judge Neal’s speech, the student speakers nominated and selected by the college community addressed their peers.
Thao Nguyen moved to Arizona from Vietnam just a few years ago and attended CAC’s San Tan Campus. She began her education with English as a Second Language courses to get to know the language better and to help her adapt to her new society. During her time at CAC, Nguyen was involved with student leadership, Phi Theta Kappa, and the Honors Program. She is transferring to Arizona State University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in actuarial science.
She encouraged her peers to face difficulties head on and to not give up. “If a woman like me, who doesn’t speak English as my mother language, who knew nothing at the beginning, who didn’t have a job, a car, and didn’t even know how to drive can end up graduating from college and keep pursuing my education goals, then anyone can achieve this, if they really want to.” She continued, “Today is the beginning of another journey. It will take a lot of time and effort, it will not be easy, and you may be faced with a hundred reasons to quit, but I hope you always find a reason to stay the course and complete the journey you’ve started. You’ve already proven you can.”
Mekaela Walters from the Superstition Mountain Campus received multiple nominations to be one of this year’s student speakers. She recently turned 17 and during the ceremony received an associate of arts and associate of science degree from CAC just weeks before obtaining her high school diploma from Apache Junction High School. During her time at CAC she was very active in campus events and throughout the community. She was a student employee with student engagement and worked as a tutor in the learning center.
The College recognized those faculty who were nominated and chosen by students for their representation of the very best in academic stewardship and commitment to academic excellence. Faculty of the Year awards were presented to: Titia Louise King – Aravaipa Campus; Christine Cook – Maricopa Campus; Nancy Leeder – San Tan Campus; Diane Beecroft – Signal Peak Campus; and Barbara Bushelle – Superstition Mountain Campus. Additionally, Barbara Bushelle – Superstition Mountain Campus; Stacie Kyhn – Superstition Mountain Campus; Crystal McKenna – Maricopa Campus; and Tracey Powers – Signal Peak Campus were recognized with the George Fridell Excellence in Teaching Awards.
Francisco Uriarte represented the Central Arizona College Alumni and Retiree Association. He explained to graduates, “Tonight, you will receive your diploma and graduate from CAC. That does not mean that you must leave Central Arizona College behind.” He concluded his congratulatory remarks by encouraging graduates to participate in the CAC Alumni Association.
Faculty senate president Ruth Butler presented the candidates to the CAC Governing Board, which conferred the degrees and certificates. The graduating students were congratulated as they crossed the stage by the CAC Governing Board as well as President Dr. Jackie Elliott.
An official list of CAC graduates will be released and published once the degrees and certificates have been confirmed. Preliminary statistics show there are 758 graduates for the 2016-2017 academic year with a total of 1,129 degrees and certificates being awarded. The oldest person to be awarded a degree or certificate this year is 71 and the youngest is 17. The number of male graduates is 292 while the number of female graduates is 462. The total number of degrees and certificates awarded by Central Arizona College in its 46 years is 23,923 given to 16,924 individuals.