Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer
Graduation gowns, tassels, honor cords, sashes, camera flashes, but most of all smiles filled up Greyhound Arena as people packed in to watch students march off of the stage armed with their diplomas Saturday morning.
There were more than 250 Eastern New Mexico University graduates during the fall of 2005 graduation ceremonies and on Saturday they were recognized by friends, family and ENMU faculty and staff.
Some graduates were excited, anxious and proud of this and for one graduate, it was a load off of his shoulders.
“It was like 100 pounds came off of my shoulder,” Omar Vega said. Vega graduated with a master in counseling. “I’m grateful for this moment. I’m glad to get it done.”
Vega said he will be working in Santa Fe and living in Albuquerque in pursuit of his career. It’s a relief to Issac Rivas also. He attended Roswell High and wants to stay in the area because it’s home to him.
Many graduates took time to hug their parents and family members in the lobby of the arena afterwards. Some with tears rolling down their cheeks and some expressing their gratitude for encouragement through the tough times.
“I’m the first to graduate from my family,” Naomi Aranda, who attended Portales High School, said. Aranda received her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. “My family is proud of me.”
Aranda said she had to overcome obstacles to get to this point and when times got tough Aranda said her mother, Esmenia Aranda, encouraged her and was supportive of her so she could get to the stage on Saturday.
Kellin Moreland from Tucumcari graduated on Saturday and was grateful that through the tough times she was able to earn her degree.
“I had to overcome obstacles,” Moreland said. “I was a single parent, a teenage parent when I started college.”
Moreland said finding the time to go to school and be a parent was the most difficult part.
“I was trying to be a good parent while I was going to school,” Moreland said. She said she hopes to be a role model for other parents. “I want to show single parents that they can overcome the obstacles and be a good parent at the same time.”
Moreland will go on to pursue her master’s degree and her father Jay Valerio was proud to see Saturday’s graduation ceremonies. Valerio came down from Phoenix to see his daughter graduate.
“I have a lot of pride in her accomplishment,” Valerio said. “It was a real tear-jerker for me to see her receive her diploma.”
Mary Ayala, the commencement speaker, took time to acknowledge the parents and to assure them that their children were nurtured during their time at school.
Sarah Lishman’s path to a degree in history was helped by her grandfather who was in Pearl Harbor. Lishman said she used to listen to stories from her grandfather who was at the arena to watch Lishman graduate.
“It was great,” Lishman said about working for The Chase, the university college paper, while she was at Eastern. “It was stressful but I liked it because I liked to shoot my mouth off.”
Lishman worked as a columnist for The Chase.
Irshaun Pinckney played for the ENMU Greyhounds’ basketball team, but his focus now turns to an internship with a Disney resort in Orlando. Pinckney, a Clovis High School graduate, said he will begin working in January.
“It’s a big relief,” Pinckney said about having a job lined up. “That’s the common question (Do you have a job after you graduate?) They ask you what are you going to do now. Everyone’s happy for me.”
ENMU president Steven Gamble spent some time congratulating the fall class of 2005 before they left the arena.
“This is a special day for our graduates,” Gamble said. “This is a special day for you. I’m glad we could share this day with you.”