Gila Community College’s 12 Payson graduates walked down the aisle Wednesday night in the Payson High School auditorium.
All told, 61 people graduated from the college this year, which Payson Dean Pam Butterfield said marked the largest graduating class in the college’s history.
“I’m so very pleased to be here today,” Butterfield began. “It’s a great feeling to know that our former students are working in the community in their chosen fields.”
The majority of graduates earned an associate of applied science in nursing. One student earned an associate’s in business, and two received an associate’s in general studies.
Seventeen students earned certificates of proficiency in fields like bookkeeping, culinary fundamentals and fire science.
And 159 students earned certificates of completion in fields like fire department operations, emergency medical technician and phlebotomy.
“You feel like, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m so glad that I’m done,’” said Carolyn McCormies, Eastern Arizona College’s nursing director. GCC contracts with EAC, and EAC technically awards the students’ diplomas.
McCormies gave an extended analogy with a heart’s action potential. The graduates have big hearts, she said. But with a heart, one beat is not enough.
“I hope that you will continue to find ways to improve yourself,” she said, adding that the graduates have potential, but need action to apply their skills.
State Rep. Bill Konopnicki, who spoke after McCormies, also urged the graduates toward action.
He honored, “the best graduates in the world,” as he choked up and paused for a moment.
“People will pay you for what you’ve learned here and it’s an important thing,” he said. Konopnicki has lived his life by two laws — the rule of slight edge and acknowledging a window of opportunity.
The slight edge involves “doing just a little more than the next person.” He offered several sports analogies, one of which included an Olympic runner who won a race by the length of his nose.
To illustrate the window of opportunity rule, Konopnicki talked about one of his favorites — fruit cocktail in Jell-O. A window of opportunity exists, he said, between five and seven minutes.
Too early, and the fruit falls to the bottom. Too late, and it sits on the top. But add the fruit during the window of opportunity, and it seeps evenly throughout the Jell-O, creating the perfect dessert.
“If you don’t do it, then it ruins, in my opinion, the result,” Konopnicki said.
Graduates must do two things, he continued. First, recognize the moment and second, subvert fear to move ahead.
“It won’t be easy,” he warned. The people most excited for the degree will include the graduate and her immediate family members. For the rest of the world, “people will want to know what you can do with it.”