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235 Graduates Receive Diplomas at NMJC Commencement

235 Graduates Receive Diplomas at NMJC Commencement photo
Photo: Kimberly Ryan/Hobbs News-Sun

5/16/2016 8:43:51 a.m. - Hobbs, NM. [Story courtesy of Dorothy Fowler - Hobbs News Sun]

If it were possible to bottle, preserve and sell joy, Friday night’s New Mexico Junior College graduation at the Lea County Event Center would have supplied enough to make everyone in southeastern New Mexico rich.

The evening started with the New Mexico Junior College band ensemble playing show tunes while the excited families and friends of the 235 students who elected to participate in graduation exercises filled the blue stadium seats at the Event Center.

Some of the families and friends carried balloon bouquets, some traditional hand bouquets and there was at least one in a vase that was almost as big as a good sized toddler. Someone brought an air horn that he or she used only occasionally and never when a graduate’s name was being called.

The graduation ritual was full of pomp and circumstance, but was not stuffy. Faculty, wearing full academic regalia – robes, academic hoods and either mortar boards or the tams that people who have earned doctoral degrees wear – marched to their places on the floor to the strains of Pomp and Circumstance.

As the audience stood, about 200 graduates clad in NMJC’s traditional red cap and gown marched in, followed by about 40 students wearing black caps and gowns. Students in red were receiving Associate’s degrees either in arts, science, applied science, or they were receiving certificates declaring they are either career-ready or ready to take state mandated examinations before entering their job fields.

Those in black were receiving high school equivalency diplomas.

Although most of the graduates fell into the category of traditional student, i.e., between 18 and 22 years old, there were several who fell into the non-traditional category. Some of the non-traditional students had wives or husbands and/or children in the audience.

Jenny Rose Staton was in that group. Her husband, Jon Sta-ton, mother Nenith Adonay, and children, Chilil Adonay, 13, Uniqua Adonay, 10, and Jazlyn Staton, 2, knew exactly where Jenny Rose was in the sea of red. Jazlyn waved and pointed and waved again as she sat on Chilil’s lap, who played the role of adoring big brother while Uni-qua waited her turn to hold the baby.

Jon Staton said seeing his wife get her degree was worth the sacrifices the family had made while she was in school. “But it was hard,” he said, “the late nights, cooking the meals, taking care of the kids. But I’m really proud of her. She’s planning to go on and get her bachelor’s degree.”

AT NMJC’s graduations there are no speakers, said Susan Fine, who supplies information for the college. Instead the emphasis is on awarding students the degrees they’ve earned. Because of that, the ceremony lasted only an hour and 20 minutes, including the recessional.

The recessional was part of the ritual, as faculty marched to the back of the center, formed two lines and applauded as the students walked between the lines and out of the center.

Then hugs, picture-taking, and tears of joy won the day as families, friends and professors mingled. They were a crowd that was not in a hurry to leave. They lingered in the foyer, stood talking under trees just outside the door, ambled to cars in the parking lot, frequently with arms linked in groups of four or five.

It was, as outgoing NMJC president Steve McCleery said before the recessional, a night the graduates could remember with joy all their lives.

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