Local students prepare for university graduation

By Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer

Eastern New Mexico University students have their eyes on the prize — a diploma — and their eyes on the day after when they go into the workforce.
Of the 330 graduation candidates set to graduate Saturday from Eastern New Mexico University, 36 of them have their education roots in the Portales area.
Sandy Fair, a Floyd High School graduate from 2000, is eyeing her next step and has already began interviewing for accounting positions with CPA firms in Texas and New Mexico. Fair said she has not limited her options to the area and has sent applications nationwide. Fair said she also benefited from her work study in the business office of ENMU.
“If I had a choice I would do it all over again,” Fair said about going to ENMU and choosing a business degree. “They (business office workers) took me under their wing and helped me develop an interest in accounting.”
Fair said she was looking at attending a college in Pennsylvania or Massachusetts, but really liked ENMU and the staff.
For Jason Bennett, a Dora High School graduate from 1997, getting his degree on Saturday will be made possible despite a three-year absence from attending ENMU. Bennett said he dropped out after he got married and had a child, but got back on track for his degree when he started going back to ENMU in the fall of 2003.
Bennett will be receiving a bachelor of science in agriculture.
“I’ve always loved agriculture and livestock,” Bennett said.
He said his parents, Charles and Beverly Bennett motivated him to go back to school and get his degree. Charles and Beverly Bennett own the Vista Nueva Inc. real estate agency in Portales, but Jason said he’s not made for the real estate business.
“I don’t like to be indoors,” Jason Bennett said. “I like being outdoors.”
Bennett said he wants to go into ranching and has had one offer from owners of a ranch in Belen.
The bulk of the 36 area students are receiving a degree in some type of education field. In fact 10 of the 36 students (27.7 percent) are receiving a degree in some type of education — either music, early childhood, elementary, physical or special.
Ian Johnson wants to go into education and teach music classes. Johnson said ties between ENMU and the local public schools have helped in the graduate’s degree work. Johnson worked as a student choir teacher at Gattis Junior High School in Clovis.
“It’s nice to see the light come on,” Johnson said about teaching. “You see the students learn and go for scholarships and record deals. It’s a source of pride because it’s like you’re leaving a mark with each student.”
Two other ENMU students choose the path of teaching for their future. Courtney Acevedo will be receiving a bachelor of science in early childhood education. Acevedo said she wants to teach children from birth to the third grade. She said she did her student teaching at Brown Elementary.
“You’re not a number at a small school,” Acevedo said. Acevedo moved with her husband, 1st Lt. Alejandro Acevedo at Cannon Air Force Base, from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Courtney Acevedo said she attended the University of Central Florida, which has enrollments of more than 30,000 compared to approximately 4,000 at ENMU.
“It’s nice to be able to talk to the professor directly instead of a teacher’s assistant,” Acevedo said. “The university has worked well with the local schools to help in my education.”
Ashley Varnell, will be receiving her degree in early childhood education on Saturday. Varnell was appreciative of the people she worked with at James Elementary as a student teacher.
“Going to ENMU really prepared me for student teaching,” Varnell said. “You learn a lot when you’re student teaching. You learn more because it’s hands on.”
Ashley Varnell and her husband Cody Varnell will both be graduating from ENMU on Saturday. Ashley and Cody graduated from Floyd High School in 2000. Cody, who will be receiving a business degree, said he has a position lined up with a financial services agency in Clovis.
“I was looking for a position in financial services during the spring,” Cody Varnell said. “It’s nice to be able to have a chance to work right away.”