Central Arizona College hosts district commencement ceremony for graduates

Kaira Cortez addresses graduating students at Central Arizona College’s district commencement ceremony at the Signal Peak Campus in Coolidge. (Submitted photo)

Central Arizona College recognized the accomplishments of its graduates during a district commencement ceremony Friday, May 10 at the Signal Peak Campus in Coolidge.

After a welcome and introductions from 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, according to a press release.

Ms. 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.

“This journey has taught me many things,” she said during her speech.

“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, Ms. Cortez received an Associate or Arts, Communication Studies Certificate and Pharmacy Technician Certificate, a release states.

While at CAC, Ms. Cortez worked in student services at the San Tan Campus in San Tan Valley. She was involved with National Society of Leadership and Success, Book Connections Club, DREAMers Club, Campus Activities Board and the Honors Program.

She also served as an officer in Phi Theta Kappa, and this year, was district president of the CAC Student Government Association.

“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,” Ms. Cortez said.

“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, according to a release, show there are 768 graduates for the 2018-19 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.

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