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Class of 2014 is Largest to Graduate from Gila Community College

Yesterday marked a significant moment in the history of Gila Community College. As this year’s college graduates gathered in the High Desert auditorium for their commencement ceremony, Senior Dean Dr. Stephen Cullen announced that the graduating class of 2014 was the largest class to graduate from the college thus far.A total of 73 degrees were awarded to the class of 2014, in addition to 55 certificates of proficiency. Twenty students graduated from the San Carlos campus, which is an all-time high.

Graduates Megan Tapia and Mary Tapija-Martin from the San Carlos campus, and valedictorian Joseph Montgomery from the Gila Pueblo campus, took to the stage to speak to their graduating class.

Montgomery reminded fellow graduates to hold on to their idealism. He expressed gratitude to the college’s instructors.

“My mother told me fear is okay, even healthy… I do believe you should always do what you’re afraid of,” Tapia said. “I came to school knowing one thing—I wanted to help my community.”

“Dreams and hopes have become a reality for the students,” said Marcella James, San Carlos’ campus facilitator.

Of course, graduating doesn’t come without challenges.

For some graduates, like Nicole Boni, 21, who pursued a degree in general studies, figuring out what to major in was a challenge. For Melissa Homan, 43, who pursued a degree in nursing, the challenge was simply the coursework and long hours spent studying.

Many graduates balanced other responsibilities in addition to going to school.

James pointed out that a lot of graduates also worked throughout college. That includes graduates like Abel Cook, 53, who pursued general technical studies, and Christopher Cormack, 29, who studied electrical and instrumentation technology, both of whom worked when they weren’t at school. Kayla Altaha, 24, not only worked, but took care of a little one at home while pursuing her degree in general studies.

The best part of the college experience has been accomplishing it, Homan said.

And for many students, more schooling is on the horizon.

“I’m considering my plans,” Cook said. “Maybe NAU is next.”

About Jenn Walker

Jenn Walker began writing for Globe Miami Times in 2012 and has been a contributor ever since. Her work has also appeared in Submerge Magazine, Sacramento Press, Sacramento News & Review and California Health Report. She currently teaches Honors English at High Desert Middle School and mentors Globe School District’s robotics team.

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