Thirty-one students graduated from Gila Community College on Wednesday, May 8, all moving into the world with more knowledge and training in fire science, nursing, business and a host of other disciplines.
The graduation speakers praised their efforts and the role community colleges play in making higher education affordable and possible.
Maria Hesse, the vice provost for academic partnerships at Arizona State University, used herself and Jacob Moor, head of the Arizona department of education, as examples of Arizonans who started their careers with a community college education.
Hesse also mentioned Heather Thomas, a woman orphaned at 11 and pregnant by 15, who now works for NASA after going back to college in her 30s to make a better life for her children.
“These folks are graduates of a community college,” she said. “Success does not come by sitting on your laurels — take something good and make it better.”
Biology instructor Joseph Shannon quoted the now-famous Chicago Tribune column by Mary Schmich, “Wear Sunscreen,” but added some twists, like “drink water.”
Representative Jeff Dial liked that advice.
“I like coming to graduations; I always learn something,” he said, “Today, I learned I need to drink water.”
Dial, from Chandler, spoke of the many mentors in his life and how a community college education started him on his journey in life.
“I did not see that the decisions I made at your age would affect my children,” he said, “But the decision I made to attend Pima Community College and then the University of Arizona brought me to where I am today and gave my children a better future.”