by Sam Stevens (MCC Advisor)
Phoenix, AZ - On Thursday, May 8, 2014 all American Indian students who completed associates degree or certificate programs at the 10 Maricopa schools or two skill centers during the Summer 2013, Fall 2013, and Spring 2014 terms were honored and recognized at the 2014 American Indian Convocation ceremony held this year at Paradise Valley Community College.
MCC had approximately 110 American Indian students who completed degree or certificate programs and was represented by 15 at this event. A total of 320 students throughout the district completed their degrees/certificates but due to limited seating, roughly 75 students, along with their guests, shared the evening. In attendance were Chancellor Rufus Glasper, Executive Vice Chancellor Maria Harper-Marinick, PVCC President Dr. Paul Dale, MCCCD Board President Dana Saar, and Board Members Doyle Burk, Alfredo Gutierrez, and Debra Pearson.
Sponsored and organized by the Maricopa District's United Tribal Employee Council (UTEC), this event took place at the Kranitz Student Center (KSC) Conference Room. In addition to a panel of speakers consisting of Maricopa District dignitaries, they also heard from two PVCC students, Ryan Kamper and Mandy Marquez, who shared their personal educational stories with the capacity crowd that filled the conference room. Drum group Comanche Red provided both the processional and recessional numbers while an honor guard from the American Legion Ira H. Hayes Post 84 presented the US colors and other flags representing missing POWs and the Gila River nation.
Community member Timothy Terry from the Gila River community provided the invocation as well as a blessing song for students that was filled with advice and told the story of an ancient battle which occurred at South Mountain. Filled with happiness and strength as they went off to fight, these Gila River warriors looked forward with hope to the future as their families behind them wept because of the odds not looking to be in their favor. It was the confidence and ease with which these warriors went to battle that Mr. Terry's song highlighted, encouraging them to face adversity with their hearts, minds, and souls filled with happiness and prayer even though they undoubtedly will face adversity in their lives. His humor filled speech and blessing was well received and everyone in attendance sat enthralled with the lessons he presented, ending with an encouragement that everyone support and love one another, laugh a little, and say hi more frequently to promote greater humanism as a people.
Chancellor Glasper congratulated all the graduates but encouraged them to not become complacent and to push themselves forward to better things while thanking their families and friends who supported them and trusted them to experience education here in the Valley. He also suggested that since 'no one gets here alone' they acknowledge the dedicated faculty and staff who helped them through their years in school. His message of hoping for a better future ended with the phrase, 'Today is the first day of the rest of your life', a motivation that better things are indeed in store for our talented and wonderful students.
Keynote speaker for the evening was Dr. John Molina (Pascua Yaqui/San Carlos Apache), CEO of the Phoenix Indian Medical Center. He told his story of becoming a medical doctor which presented itself through an observation made by a mentor who pointed out that he had a healing spirit. It was his openness to listen to that advice and that spirit that kept him working toward becoming a doctor. His positive message resonated with the audience as he expanded on the idea that education is the great equalizer of individuals, communities, and families. He also stated that since education is never-ending people should not let age or other challenges serve as roadblocks to their improvement. Instead they should look for opportunities in life to improve their futures and create opportunities for others whether through secular education, personal guidance and support, encouragement, or motivation toward people pursuing their own educational improvement. He also acknowledged that the spirits of the ancestors were looking out over the audience and they were proud of the accomplishments of the generations who have followed them.
Ryan Kamper (Navajo) from PVCC emotionally shared his feelings of trepidation as a young Hoop of Learning student beginning college classes. However, through the inspiration of a painting that took him back to his youth and reminded him of the soothing, encouraging voice of his grandmother, he found confidence to move forward through his courses and became involved, losing himself in his college coursework. This determination to succeed was strengthened with frequent visits back to this special painting, found in the E building at PVCC, where he would often spend hours connecting with his past which would motivate him to succeed in his future.
Mandy Marquez' (Yavapai Apache) motivation to succeed in school was driven from something deep inside her. With no example from anyone in her family to follow through college, she made her own path, finding truth in advice given by Albert Einstein that opportunity lies in the middle of difficulty. So she became deeply involved in the campus Native American club and her classes at PVCC, ultimately completing her associates degree, transferring to ASU and completing a bachelor's degree in Integrated Studies with a minor in Business. Her motivation then turned to completing a MBA from the University of Phoenix and she is currently preparing to take the LSAT in preparation for admission to ASU's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law where she hopes to study American Indian law and become an advocate for native rights.
Closing remarks were made by Patricia McIntyre (Choctaw/Southern Cheyenne), retired faculty and coordinator of American Indian Services at Phoenix College. She referenced the familiar concept of 'when we go back', referring to native people's connection to home and illustrated how wanting to go back to help others in their communities is good motivation to improving one's future through education. As she acknowledged that education had opened every door in her professional career, she also spoke about the importance of family and working toward providing more opportunities for children and loved ones. She ended with the simple phrase, 'Carry love for everyone, be grateful, and keep learning.'
The evening was capped off with a true feast catered by Moki's Grill from Mesa. They served grilled chicken, pork, various salads, and Hawaiian sweet bread. Graduates and their guests had a great time as mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents beamed with happiness at the success of their student(s). Cameras were flashing and people were all smiles as the event wound down, representing the closing of one door and the opening of another chapter in these student's lives. We wish them the very best and continued success.
MCC Students In Attendance
Wynette Begay - Associate in Arts, Yolanda Begay - Associate in Arts, Chelsie Hadley - Associate in Arts, Matt McCabe - Associate in Arts, Marlinda Haudley - Associate in Arts, Hannah Manuelito - Associate in Arts, Kris Beecher - Associate in Arts, Linaka Guy - Associate in Arts, Raina Little - Associate in Arts/AGEC, Brent Begay - Associate in Arts, Brandon McLevaine - Associate in Arts, Eric Lomatska - Associate in Arts, Tana Brown - Associate in Arts, Raychell Begay - Associate in Arts, Charmaine Begay - AAS - IT/Computer Systems
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