By Mike Linn
PORTALES — They’ve met significant others; learned to function on little or no sleep; and have merrily embraced the university social scene during their time at Eastern New Mexico University.
Now they move on, a degree on their resume and memories to last a lifetime tattooed safely in their minds.
Some call it the college experience, and for 407 ENMU seniors it will end at 10 a.m. Saturday when they graduate at Greyhound Arena.
Monica Johnson is one of those seniors, graduating with a health and physical education degree. She came to Portales five years ago from Capitan, about 140 miles southwest of Portales.
She arrived at ENMU feeling like a Social Security number with a tuition check; she said she’s leaving with friends that will last a lifetime and a smorgasbord of experiences branded in her memory.
“College has taught me a lot of time management responsibilities, and a lot of personal and self growth,” said Johnson, who works as server at Red Lobster in Clovis.
Upon arrival her freshman year, she decided to dip her feet in the social pool via the university Greek system, joining the Zeta sorority to make friends.
The 23-year-old said five years of college has taught her many things, among them the art of club dancing and how to quench the pallet with various sorts of ale.
“Lots of beer drinking,” she joked.
She will move to Denver after graduation to live with a friend she met at ENMU, where she plans to “figure out life,” and of course have some fun along the way.
Like Johnson, Colleen Wright, 23, also plans on moving to Denver following her graduation on Saturday.
An Albuquerque native, Wright came to ENMU and immediately got homesick, not necessarily because she missed her parents, but because she missed the big city.
“At first I wasn’t too happy about the transition,” she said. “I wasn’t homesick, just city sick. It was difficult for just a little while but the atmosphere, the campus life itself got rid of that real quick.”
Wright decided to embrace the college community with a rush of giddy anticipation early on. She joined Chi Omega sorority and at one point served on the student senate.
“College helped me come out of my shell,” Wright said. “It wasn’t that I was shy in high school, just not as involved. It (getting involved in organizations) was almost addicting. You meet so many people and it’s a fun way to socialize and it definitely made my college life better.”
Wright will graduate with a degree in university studies and communications. She already has a few interviews set up in Denver.
Wright said with years of college comes growth, independence and life skills, the ones that guide her when eyes become lazy and deadlines are just ahead.
“Mainly I learned time management, and how to work on less sleep,” she said.
Shane Brown, 22, said he learned similar skills, as well as how to resist those long college road trips.
A Portales native, Brown was already privy to the environment here, and as a freshman he often took off into the night with friends to far off places.
A typical destination would be Lubbock, where he and his buddies would party and head home around 5 a.m.
Brown learned that as he got older, the lack of sleep began to aversely affect his mind the next day. He said he has since curbed his late-night vices.
Brown, who will graduate Saturday with a degree in public relations, plans on moving to Albuquerque, where his girlfriend lives. He said he has a management job waiting at Abercrombie and Fitch, a transition many other graduates will face in the not-too-distant future.
“I can tell once I join the real world it will be like 40 hours a week, eight hours a day, nine to five,” Brown said. “Now I can go out on a Thursday night, have a couple of drinks with buddies and not have to worry about getting up too early the next morning. Now that I’m graduating I’ll have to be responsible, can’t do the same things anymore.”