The first graduating class of the new millennium bid farewell to Western Nevada Community College on Tuesday as the rain poured and lightning lit up Carson City's night sky.
"I think the millennium is significant," said Michelle Dondero, vice president of academics, who gave the commencement address. "The word itself conjures visions of change and excitement and you, as college graduates, are the great change agents of your time."
Dressed in gowns of blue and gold, 321 graduates accepted their diplomas during the commencement ceremony held at the Carson City Community Center where the lights flickered and the auxiliary power had to be used because of the rainstorm.
Nicole Donley, 20, was one of them. She received an associate of arts in wildlife biology.
"I'm excited because I've accomplished something besides a high school diploma," Donley said. "It feels good to know I'm moving on to a university."
Donley said she plans to pursue a bachelor's degree in wildlife biology with an emphasis in zoology. She said she will attend a university near where her husband will be stationed in the Navy.
Older graduates were a part of the group as well.
"Our young graduates have shared the classroom with fathers and mothers and grandmothers," Dondero said.
Deborah Cummings completed her associate of arts degree at age 46.
"It's taken me about 20 years," Cummings said. "It's a real accomplishment."
Cummings plans to attend the University of Nevada, Reno to pursue a degree in social work.
For Devoria Sanger, 42, the effect had not yet sunk in.
"It's real, it just hasn't really hit me yet," she said. "It's a real milestone."
Dondero said that graduates came from Minden, Gardnerville, Carson, Reno, Sparks, Dayton, Yerington and Stateline.
She said some have already moved to places such as Missouri, Virginia, Idaho and Pennsylvania.
Dondero said that 99 percent of last year's graduates would recommend WNCC to others.
Robert Hix, 33, said he spent 10 years in the Air Force and attended different community colleges across the nation.
"I think WNCC has an excellent program," Hix said. "It's the best I've seen so far."
Hix graduated with a general studies degree and plans to become a warrant officer in the Army.
Dondero quoted the Community College Times which said that students who complete at least 12 credits at a community college are more likely to complete a bachelor's degree than students who start at a four-year college.
Casey Kruse, 21, said his experience at the community college will prepare him to go to UNR and major in business.
"It's not as big and you get to know what you have to do so you're prepared when you go to a university," he said.
Dondero ended her speech with advice for the future:
"We urge you to be optimistic, to work hard, share your wisdom and be concerned about the well-being of others and to throw your friends a lifeline when they are in need."