After a weekend full of celebrations, 551 Western Nevada College students proudly obtained their degrees on stage Monday at the 46th commencement ceremony at the Marv Teixeira Pavilion.
The ceremony is deemed one of the largest graduating classes of WNC, presenting 592 degrees, said WNC President Chester Burton. It almost topped last year’s record, which was 556 graduates with 598 degrees.
Among many of those students are single parents, veterans, and high school students from across the country and internationally, Burton said.
Nevada Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison addressed the keynote speech during commencement.
“It’s one of the most highest traditions in this country that we all talk about what we want to accomplish,” he said. “We need more employees and professionals to work for us and to live in Nevada. We need an enthusiastic workforce and that’s class of 2017.”
WNC graduated students from California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, and Utah— including student Max Kyte of the United Kingdom, whom also received Associated Students of Western Nevada Club Sport Athlete of the Year.
“I didn’t expect it to go by so fast,” said Alexander Ghan of Gardnerville, who received his Associate of Arts. “At this point, I’m just excited for what’s ahead.”
“It took me forever to get where I am,” said Ariadna Valdez of Sparks, whom received her Associate in Nursing. “I’m feeling mixed emotions but I know happiness is coming my way.”
Many of the students expressed their excitement for their next chapter at the University of Nevada, Reno.
“I’m glad I finally made it here,” said Cody Shepard of Carson City, who plans to continue his career in Deaf Studies at the university.
“I can’t express the happiness I’m feeling,” said Iran Manzano of Stateline, who plans to further pursue her Associate of Arts in Social Work at UNR. “A part of my life has been completed.”
“I’m ready to go to UNR,” said Christina Bowman of Silver Springs, with an Associate in Science. “Maybe I’ll even go for a Master’s in science.”
For graduates such as Vince Bolton of Yerington, he’s looking forward to his new journey at the University of Idaho to further his Associate in Science by studying fisheries resources.
But he thanks one program offered by WNC, that helped him in particular.
“It was shocking to see how much the Jump Start program helped me over the years,” he said. “It helped me prepare to get where I want to be and it was supportive.”
A great amount of the 2017 graduates were high school students enrolled in the Jump Start program.
Representing Churchill County, Dayton, Fernley, Pyramid Lake, Silver, Stage,Virginia City high schools, and both Oasis and Nevada Virtual Academy, the program’s graduating class is the largest in three-year history.
These students received their associate degrees a week or two prior to receiving their high school diplomas.
“This is where we need to improve in our education,” spoke Rick Trachok, chair of Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents. “It’s an amazing transition. We have nothing but college education in this area and we’re keeping our fingers crossed for Gov. Brian Sandoval to approve the $1.8 million budget for community colleges. It will move opportunities forward for students.”
Out of the program, Churchill County High School in Fallon composed majority of graduates with 39 participants.
“I kept changing my mind, and going back and fourth,” said Colton Coverston, who achieved an Associate of Arts. “But with the extra two years, I can think about it.”
“We’re happy to take a two-year step into the future,” said Misaki Clare, also with an Associate of Arts. “It will be easy to get back into once we turn 21.”
Some students are still unsure what’s next but for them, it’s nothing to worry about — it’s all part of the adventure.
“It was hard, but I’m happy I did it,” said Ruby Ugalde of Fallon, Associate of Arts. “I’m thinking about studying more nursing at Carrington College.”
“I’m heading to University of Nevada, Las Vegas for mechanical engineering,” said Kyle Cuaycong of Nevada Virtual Academy, Associate of Arts. “It’s been a life goal for me.”
“I’m just excited to get a jump start in life for this,” said Kaylyn Glick of Carson City.
WNC Vice President Scott Morrison said the amount of students that graduated from the Jump Start program this year brings even more hope to the future.
“We do it for all students,” he said. “We ensure they complete their degrees and watching them do so makes it worthwhile.”
Information from the Western Nevada College public relations department was included in this story.