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There was a real feeling of emotion, optimism and hope in the air.
Soon-to-be holders of doctorate degrees, master degrees, bachelors degrees, associate degrees and general education development diplomas from UNM-LA met up with each other at the Crossroads Bible Church for their graduation ceremony Wednesday evening.
They were congratulating each other like old friends on their academic accomplishments before the ceremony began.
Within two hours, UNM-LA’s 32nd annual graduation ceremony would be over and 78 degree holders would be going off into the world to either build on what they’ve accomplished by enrolling in another degree program or finding a job.
Dr. Cedric Page, UNM-LA’s executive director, started the ceremony off by welcoming the graduates, their family and friends to the occasion as well as the event’s special guests, faculty and speakers, including convocation speaker Kathy Keith.
Keith, whose professional specialty is economic development, is the executive director of the Regional Development Corporation, a non-profit organization that promotes jobs in Northern New Mexico. It also partners with UNM-LA to help students find jobs through the organization’s “Accelerate” Program.
She had a lot to say about Northern New Mexico’s economy and the roles the UNM-LA grads will have in it.
“You are very important to Northern New Mexico,” she said, adding that she and others are working all the time to keep high-paying jobs from leaving Northern New Mexico, as well as creating more.
“In the end, that all comes down to employers,” she said. “What they tell us now more than ever that the number one factor to their success in being able to hire more people and keep the people they have is a well qualified and trained workforce. Which means that your success tonight is not only your success it’s our shared success, because businesses will stay here and move here when they look at you, your degrees, and the number of people that are well-trained and prepared to enter the workforce.”
Paul Edelmann, who received a doctorate with an emphasis on Nuclear Engineering from UNM-LA was the event’s bachelor and graduate degree speaker.
He shared with the audience the keys to his success, but also emphasized they must do their own soul searching to come up with their own path to success, quoting the Greek philosopher Socrates. “After all, Socrates is quoted at his trial saying ‘the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.”
The ceremony also featured associate degree speaker Melissa J. Torres, who recounted to the audience her long and hard path to achieving her degree, which involved raising a family and serving as a field specialist with the Tesuque Pueblo Diabetes Program.
“In life, there’s going to be a lot of changes,” she told the audience. “Sometimes we feel we are not ready for them. Don’t let the fear hold you back from moving forward.”
Among the 78 students graduating from the University of New Mexico, Los Alamos Wednesday were twelve UNM-LA students who graduated with their Associate of Science degree in fire science Wednesday, the first class to do so since UNM-LA started the program two years ago.
Joe Candelaria, a captain with the Los Alamos Fire Department helped start the program with officials from UNM-LA as way to enrich the training of regional firefighters as well as help them advance professionally through the ranks.
“I’m extremely happy and proud of every one of them and their accomplishments,” said Candelaria. “They’ve really taken their commitment to education and emergency services seriously.”
Candelaria remarked that the founding of the fire science program at UNM-LA was really a community wide effort that can only work to eventually serve the entire community.
“We are really excited about our partnerships with LANL (Los Alamos National Laboratory) UNM-LA of course, the Los Alamos Fire Department, the state fire marshal and the New Mexico Training Academy for bringing this opportunity here,” Candelaria said. “We are really doing a lot of things with many entities to make sure we provide the best service. It’s pretty exciting.”
Fire science grad LAFD Deputy Chief Glenn Trehern said his accomplishment really felt good. His statement probably could have represented what the other graduates were feeling that day, too.
“It’s very gratifying,” he said. “No matter what position in life is or what age you are it’s always good to accomplish a goal that you set out for yourself.”