By Jonathan Baca
On Saturday, December 7, the CNM Fall 2013 Graduation Ceremony went off without a hitch at Tingley Coliseum, and for the first time ever students who got their G.E.D.’s this semester were able to walk the line with all other graduates.
There were 714 graduates from the six schools at CNM, with 125 G.E.D. graduates that walked the line this semester. The ceremony featured inspired speeches by Albuquerque’s first Poet Laureate Hakim Bellamy and student speaker and graduate Amidooli Pacheco.
Bellamy’s keynote address, about the stories we create as we live our lives, brought a standing ovation from the auditorium, which was nearly full of excited family and friends.
“People’s journey to receiving their degree is an intensely personal and triumphant journey and story. So for me to be asked to be here to honor that, with so many people and so many great stories, so many heroes in their own life and to their own families, I’m just really honored,” Bellamy said.
Bellamy’s speech featured an ancient Zulu folk tale, which he adapted to New Mexico and CNM, and told the tale of the mankind’s first stories, and the stories we all live and leave behind.
He said his speech was partly inspired by the recent passing of civil rights leader Nelson Mandela, and by his own trip to South Africa last year.
“To some people, these types of accomplishments matter most, but a lot of people in our various cultures value different things; the birth of a child, the passing on and transition of an elder. So I thought, what do all these things have in common, this graduation and all those major life events? It’s a story, right? This becomes another chapter of a larger story that you are living,” Bellamy said.
Pacheco, who received his diploma for an Associates in Liberal Arts, spoke about his own journey, and the value of perseverance in accomplishing his goals.
Pacheco discussed his heritage as a Native American from the Santo Domingo pueblo, and in addition to being a Marine; he is also an artist and silversmith.
He spoke about how he began his college career back in 1995, and how after collecting 60 credits and suffering many setbacks, he was able to overcome his obstacles and get his degree.
“My take on it is perseverance. From the root to the fruit, it takes a lot of work. You got to have a sense of humor and a sense of direction to make it,” Pacheco said.
Pacheco congratulated all the graduates, and encouraged them all to continue working hard and pursuing their dreams.
“As a graduate now from CNM, one door closes and another one opens, and I wish everybody the best,” Pacheco said.
Pacheco said he thinks that CNM and other community colleges and trade schools are a big part of the state’s future development, and for many New Mexicans who cannot afford traditional college, they are a great alternative and an important opportunity to get a good education and compete in today’s world.
“You can know all the terms and all the intricate details of something, but if you are not applying it, then it means nothing. Everybody who stood out there today applied something,” he said.
The crowd was impressed by graduate Demetris T. Cleveland’s rendition of the National Anthem.
After the speakers finished, President, Dr. Katharine Winograd spoke, congratulating the graduates and thanking the faculty and the graduates’ families for their support.
Winograd also mentioned Nelson Mandela, who was famous for his views on the importance of education.
She quoted him to the audience, saying “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
The SAGE students received their high school certificates first, followed by the rest of the graduates, who went up in groups according to their specialized schools; Applied Technologies, Business and Information Technology, Communication, Humanities and Social Sciences, Health, Wellness and Public Safety, and finally Math, Science and Engineering.
The deans of each school handed out the diplomas and certificates.
As each student’s name was called, bursts of cheering, clapping, and the occasional bullhorn ran out from the stands as family members scrambled to take pictures.
The graduate then walked up to the stage, was handed a black folder with their degree, and shook the hands of their dean and President Winograd.
After the last name was called, Winograd asked all the graduates to stand up, and she then said the words they had all worked so hard to hear.
“By my authority, I confer upon each of you your degree. Graduates, please turn your tassels. Congratulations, you did it!”
The graduates were then led out by a Bagpipe band called the Mac Tire of Skye Pipe and Drums Band that includes Culinary Instructor, Carmine Russo, as the auditorium was filled with the sound of bagpipes and the cheering of proud family members.
A college career, like all of life, is a lot like writing a commencement speech, Bellamy said.
“You just kind of throw it all in the stew, cook it, leave it on 350 for three hours and then serve it up,” he said.