by Eric Norwood Jr.
PNT staff writer
Another semester, another unique group of students taking the next steps in their lives.
The fall 2013 Eastern New Mexico University commencement was a bittersweet and celebratory affair as graduates cherished memories and looked to the future.
Versia Hodges II of Los Angeles has already decided his next move.
“I’m going to travel. I’m going to Berlin hopefully this spring, and then San Francisco, maybe Seattle,” said Hodges, grinning, flanked by proud family members and friends.
Families were a driving force, packing the Greyhound Arena almost to capacity. After almost every name a cheer erupted from a different section of the crowd.
Students showed their happiness in different ways, but everyone’s expression was the same.
Tamara Johnson from Raton displayed a shy smile as she accepted her degree. Lorenzo Murphy of Galveston, Texas, bellowed, “All glory to God,” with both hands raised in the direction of his cheering family a couple rows from the end of the stage.
Murphy’s mother, Lorenza Murphy, traveled from Galveston to watch her son graduate, and didn’t hide her feelings.
“If you could open my heart right now, you’d see joy,” she said at the commencement reception in an adjoining gym.
Carolina Nogueira’s parents took a 12-hour plane ride to watch her graduate. Nogueira is a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
“It was very long, but we are happy to see her,” said Pedro Nogueira in Portuguese. Carolina translated his words.
“I am very proud of her,” the elder Nogueira said.
Angel Gonzales of Sudan, Texas, sat at a table at the reception with a relieved look on his face, surrounded by at least six friends and family members. He had the look of someone who had completed half a marathon.
“I’m very excited for him. He finally got it,” said Barbara Gonzales, Angel’s mother.
Angel’s next endeavor may have explained the look on his face, as he told those around him.
“Now I have to find a job,” Gonzales said with a chuckle.