Nine women celebrate educational pursuits by graduating from Central’s Aravaipa Campus

WINKELMAN, Ariz – Nine women from the eastern Pinal County area left Central Arizona College’s Aravaipa Campus on Friday night clutching keys to new lives.

Before more than 50 friends, family and community leaders on the lawn soon-to-be graduates have annually traversed, members of Central Arizona College’s first graduating class of 2008 shook many hands, unleashed many smiles and accepted many congratulatory well-wishes during the annual commencement ceremony.

Graduation ceremonies also were held at Central Superstition Mountain Campus on Saturday morning and at the Signal Peak Campus on Saturday evening.

And then there was the cake – an annual rite of passage requirement following graduation at Aravaipa.

This year’s class of degree and certificate recipients averaged just more than 33 years of age, with the oldest student wearing a cap and gown being having celebrated 39 birthdays and the youngest only 26.

The nine women claimed nine degrees and two certificates and featured six students capping their accomplishment with honors – or a minimum of a 3.50 grade point average.

The graduation list included the following students:

  • Jennifer Lynn Aguirre (San Manuel, AZ/San Manuel H.S.)
  • Martina Josefa Burnam (Dudleyville, AZ)
  • Kelly Michelle Hartin (Kearny, AZ/Ray H.S.)
  • Regina Howell (San Manuel, AZ/Ray H.S.)
  • Amanda Huffman (Kearny, AZ/Hayden H.S.)
  • Leysa Rought (Winkelman, AZ/Ray H.S.)
  • Tammy Sotelo (Kearny, AZ)
  • Angel Tibbetts (Tucson, AZ)
  • Amanda Valdez (Tucson, AZ)

Aguirre, Hartin, Howell, Tibbetts, Huffman and Valdez each graduated with honors, while Tibbetts earned both a degree and a certificate.

Aguirre, a mother of four boys and an All-Arizona Academic recipient, served as the student commencement speaker during the ceremony.

“The campus seemed so small and remote,” she said at the outset of her speech, wondering if Central’s Aravaipa Campus was the right place to start her new career path.

“Who would want to be here at this tiny campus?” she rhetorically asked. “I would.”

Aguirre quickly became involved thanks largely to the encouragement of professors who cared.

“Because of my experiences, I have a new respect for the CAC Aravaipa Campus and its importance to our community,” Aguirre said. “I have encountered professors who cared and wanted students to succeed. Aside from a great education, I have formed lifelong friendships and feel prepared for what the next step will bring.”

The next step will be hunting down her bachelor’s degree at the University of Arizona, something that former Pinal County School Superintendent Dr. Jack Harmon, the guest speaker, encouraged when he took the podium.

“You can make a difference,” Harmon said. “The next 50 years will be your 50 years, your chance to make a difference. You can have a great life if you live on a high plateau and take life as a challenge. Take risks and have courage to pursue your dreams.”

Harmon encouraged the students to be active in politics by knowing who you are electing, to be technology literate, and to be environmentally smart and active by understanding the bigger picture.

“Be tolerant and compassionate of others,” Harom said. “Communicate and treat others with respect. Give back to your community and your country. I am vastly encouraged when I see outstanding students graduate from our public schools, community college and universities.”



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