By Helena Rodriguez
It took Kristine Kelley of Roswell four-and-a-half years to earn a bachelor’s of business administration degree from Eastern New Mexico University. Like many students, she earned her degree while also flipping burgers, and said she’d do it all over again if she had to.
“The hardest part was balancing work and school, but that shows anybody can do it if they apply themselves,” 29-year-old Kelley said. “Just don’t ever give up, no matter how long it takes and no matter how old you are.”
Kelley was one of 346 graduates who earned a college degree at Greyhound Arena on Saturday during ENMU’s 106th annual commencement convocation.
Kelley doesn’t have a job lined up yet, but she feels optimistic she will find one soon. She hopes to find an employer that will help pay for her to get a master’s of business administration (MBA) degree in a few years.
Amanda Gras-Burnett took the entire six years allowed to earn a master’s degree in education, with emphasis in administration, by taking about two classes at a time.
“I eventually want to go into education administration, but first I want to raise my son. He’s going to be in sixth grade, so he’s at a critical age,” said Burnett, who teaches art and math at Portales Junior High School.
Letitia Chambers, executive director of the New Mexico Commission on Higher Education, gave the commencement address before a packed Greyhound Arena. She offered graduates useful advice, quoting a variety of sources, from the late American writer Henry James to Yogi Berra.
“It’s interesting that the end process of your education is referred to as commencement, because commence refers to a beginning,” Chambers said. “You are beginning a new phase of your life.”
Encouraging the graduating class to seize opportunities, Chambers quoted James, saying, “Be a man on whom nothing was lost,” and also quoted Berra, saying, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”
Among other things, Chambers has serves as a U.S. representative to the United Nations General Assembly, spoken before Congress numerous times and appeared on “Larry King Live.”
Chambers also encouraged students to give their time and resources to charities and their communities, saying their lives will be blessed if they do so. She also told students to be grateful for their education and to be open to change.
“If my future had been mounted by the plans I had for myself, I would have missed out on opportunities. My horizon wasn’t large enough at that time,” Chambers said.
Tim Chavez of Acoma Pueblo, can attest to that. Chavez said his daughter, Lenay, didn’t even care for biology when she was in high school, but Lenay surprised even herself and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in biology on Saturday.
“It’s been a long road getting Lenay through college, but it’s been a good one, too,” said Chavez, who has four children, including one who has earned a master’s degree.
However, he also added, “I don’t know what it will be like getting my other two children through college. The cost of college is going up so much, but we will manage.”