Both speakers for the recent 2013 commencement at Arizona Western College and Northern Arizona University-Yuma share a love for higher education and the possibilities it provides.
AWC commencement speaker Stephanie Rivas had her start at the local community college at the age of 5 in the original Child Development Learning Lab, as the daughter of Joe Rivas, a grounds and maintenance worker at the college for 23 years and Lorena Rivas, who worked in the Financial Aid Department for 10 years.
“I see my dad on campus all the time. I still live at my parents' house, but in the mornings I don't get to see him. Then as soon as I get to school, we run into each other and talk for a while.
“He's a really happy person, and he gives me a little bit of relief so I don't have to worry about school. I talk to him about whatever's going on.”
After attending Otondo and Gwyneth Ham elementary schools as well as Gila Vista Junior High and Kofa High School, she returned to AWC as a student in 2011.
On Friday, Rivas graduated from AWC with an associate's degree in general sciences with the hopes of working in a police department crime lab or for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the future.
This summer she will be taking part in an NAU internship for environmental science majors and in the fall start at NAU in Flagstaff, where she will be pursuing her bachelor's degree in chemistry with an emphasis in forensics.
Her commencement speech focused on how AWC has always been a second home for her as well as many other graduates, but now they must move on and continue to pursue higher education and careers.
Yuma native Alexander Vermont was the speaker for NAU's commencement Friday and has had experience representing the Yuma branch campus worldwide. He recently received his bachelor's degree in biology from NAU-Yuma.
While he briefly attended Arizona State University to study psychology, he returned home to Yuma to be closer to family.
He explained in his commencement speech that it's OK when unexpected life events change a person's path.
“It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique. With hard work and determination, who you become and what you will experience tomorrow will be far greater than anything you could imagine today.”
Vermont had the opportunity to be a part of two Undergraduate Research Experiences funded by the National Science Foundation, one at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Maine and the other at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras.
Also during his time at NAU-Yuma, he traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah, to present his student research at the 2012 Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography's national conference.
In the fall, he will be working full-time at Laboratories for Ocean Sciences, where he will study zooplankton ecology, marine microbiology and virology, and ocean chemistry.
He also will be entering into a graduate program in marine microbial ecology and continue to work with the Institute of Marine Research in Norway to study ocean acidification.
Sarah Womer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.