Rudy Pena, right, of Clovis, shares the graduation excitement with Mark Gormley of Portales on Saturday during commencement exercises at Greyhound Arena in Portales. (Freedom Newspapers: Karl Terry)
Eastern New Mexico University students who donned cap and gown Saturday at their graduation are looking forward to the next step in their journey to a career.
“It’s a stepping stone for me,” Theo Watson, who graduated with a degree in psychology, said. “It’s almost like a foot in the door to accomplishing the rest of my goals. It was nice to have family here to watch me.”
Watson went to high school in Littlefield, Texas. He said he is going to be doing his graduate work at New Mexico Highlands University.
More than 300 students took part in the commencement and the Greyhound Arena was filled with well-wishers, family and friends.
Terra Foster, a 2002 Portales High School graduate, said what sticks out most about Saturday’s graduation is the finality.
“It’s over,” Foster said with relief. “It’s been a lot of hard work, and it’s paid off. I’ll be doing more job searching while I go on some missions.”
Foster said she will be going to Louisiana to help with hurricane relief with other members of the Third and Kilgore Church of Christ in Portales. Foster graduated with a degree in communications and worked for the KENW student newscast for three years.
Ricardo Salas Jr., a Hobbs High graduate, echoed Foster’s sentiments.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Salas said. “It hasn’t hit me yet (that I graduated).”
Salas received his bachelor’s degree in English, but wants to go into photography, having worked for ENMU taking pictures for the school’s Web site and flyers. He joked that the next thing for him is the “big bill” (student loans) he’s going to get from ENMU.
Hillary Alford, a 2002 Portales High School graduate, said she is hoping to get a job with an engineer-recruiting firm in Austin, Texas. Alford graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in marketing.
“It’s exciting,” she said about the possibility of moving to a city. Alford said she has lived all of her life in Portales. “I think I’m ready for it (the move) and prepared. I’m going to miss the small town, but I’ll enjoy the city life.”
De’Ann Luce, who received her bachelor’s degree in history, has also lived in small towns all of her life and will be moving to Dallas in October. Luce said she will attend the Art Institute in Dallas for two years so she can become a graphic artist.
“It’s going to be a change,” Luce said. “I’m really excited about it and I’m looking forward to it.”
Luce graduated from Fort Sumner High School in 2002 before attending ENMU in Portales for four years.
ENMU president Steven Gamble recognized retiring faculty members and those who won awards for excellence in teaching. He also complimented the students, the reason everyone was in attendance.
“The graduates we have here today are the best hope we have for the success of our nation,” Gamble said.
New Mexico Lt. Gov. Diane Denish was the commencement speaker and talked to the graduates about their accomplishments and the meaning for the state of New Mexico.
“It’s a beautiful day to take your step out to the rest of your lives,” Denish said. “Thank you for hanging in there and for completing your education. Your parents, children, spouses have worked hard for you to be here today. They’re your biggest supporters.”
Gamble also took time to honor the 13 students from China who completed their two years at ENMU in the 1-2-1 program. It is called 1-2-1 because the students attend a university in China the first year, two years at ENMU and the fourth year back at the university in China, gaining a degree from ENMU.