By Angela Askey, Executive Director Public Relations and Marketing
Central Arizona College recognized the accomplishments of its graduates during a district commencement ceremony on Friday, May 10 at the Signal Peak Campus.
After a welcome and introductions conducted by Dr. Mary Kay Gilliland, Vice President of Academic Affairs, CAC’s Concert Choir performed “This is Me”.
Two student speakers, Ashley Keepers and Kaira Cortez, were nominated and selected by the college community to address their peers.
Ashley Keepers is a graduate of Tonapah High School and still resides in Tonapah. She is the first female student to receive a certificate in the structural welding program. In 2018, she received certificates in welding and drafting from CAC. While at CAC, she was president of the American Welding Society student chapter and became a member of Phi Theta Kappa.
Keepers told the audience about her journey. She stated, “This journey has taught me many things. If you work hard it will always pay out, and that it is okay to change your mind. If you are not happy about something, fix it. Even if it seems outrageous or absurd, you will be a much happier person in the end. Life will not always deliver you cupcakes and rainbows. Sometimes, life has a funny way of pushing you down when you think everything is going well. How will you respond to life’s challenges? Are you going to lay down and take it, or are you going to make the most out of adversity? How you react defines you.”
A resident of San Tan Valley and graduate of Combs High School, Kaira Cortez received an Associate of Arts, Communication Studies Certificate and Pharmacy Technician Certificate. While at CAC, Cortez worked in student services at the San Tan Campus. She was involved with National Society of Leadership and Success, Book Connections Club, DREAMers Club, Campus Activities Board and the Honors Program. Additionally, she served as an officer in Phi Theta Kappa, and this year, was district president of the CAC Student Government Association.
Cortez told her peers, “All of you are unique and amazing. Remember that a dream is a wish your heart makes and your dreams are coming true tonight. Of course, there will be challenges in life but remember, Hakuna Matata, no worries you can do it. Adventure is out there and you just have to keep swimming. The next journey you take will become a part of your world.” She added, “We have the courage and we can pursue our dreams.”
Faculty senate president Clark Vangilder presented the candidates to the CAC Governing Board, which conferred the degrees and certificates. President Dr. Jackie Elliott along with the Governing Board members congratulated graduates as they crossed the stage.
An official list of CAC graduates will be released and published once the degrees and certificates have been confirmed. Preliminary statistics show there are 768 graduates for the 2018-2019 academic year with a total of 807 degrees and certificates being awarded. The oldest person to be awarded a degree or certificate this year is 67 and the youngest is 17. Ten students graduated from CAC before graduating from high school since their ceremonies are not until later in May. The number of male graduates is 276 while the number of female graduates is 492. The total number of degrees and certificates awarded by Central Arizona College in its 49 years is 26,173 given to 18,768 individuals.