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277 graduate from Pueblo Community College Southwest

On Saturday, 277 students graduated from Pueblo Community College in a commencement ceremony in Montezuma-Cortez High School Auditorium. (Bailey Duran/Special to The Journal)
Students graduated with an array of degrees and certifications

Pueblo Community College Southwest’s 2024 graduating class were reminded not only what they accomplished in receiving their diplomas, but what lies ahead.

“We are gathered here now to recognize you and your hard-earned accomplishments,” Pepper said. “We admire and appreciate your perseverance and achievements to have a postsecondary degree and certifications.”

Executive Dean Dr. Lisa Snyder congratulated the 277 graduates on Saturday morning in the Montezuma-Cortez High School auditorium, all while encouraging them to keep forging their path.

Pueblo Community College 2024 Rising Star recipient and nursing associate of applied sciences graduate Dantzelle Yazzie gave the land acknowledgment statement. (Bailey Duran/Special to The Journal)

“We take this moment to celebrate not only what you have accomplished, but also the exciting opportunities that lie ahead,” Snyder told the graduates. “In the journey that follows, be bold in your pursuits and steadfast in your commitment. The path most likely will not always be smooth, but the challenges you face will only strengthen your resolve and enrich your perspective.”

Snyder also told the graduates they’re architects of their own destinies and “the authors of the next great chapter” in their personal histories."

“Embrace this responsibility with passion and creativity… Remember that you possess the power to carve new paths, challenge the status quo and uplift others as you ascend,” she said.

After Dr. Snyder, associate student body president and nursing program graduate Ivana Belle Shirley Kibel took the stage. Kibel is also a first-generation postsecondary graduate.

After thanking faculty and staff at PCC, Kibel acknowledged the challenge of getting her degree, sharing that her inner voice often told her she would fail before she learned she could and would succeed.

Pueblo Community College Executive Dean Lisa Snyder addressed graduates. (Bailey Duran/Special to The Journal)

“It was hard. It was much harder than I thought it would be,” Kibel said. “Throughout this journey, I’ve done nothing but doubt myself and my capabilities, make ‘plan B’s’ in my head, I didn’t think I would do well on my exams, I didn’t think I was smart enough, and I didn’t think I would succeed in a clinical setting… I expected to fail.”

Despite the fears and doubts, Kibel said she was able to “work through all of the literal blood, sweat and tears” to graduate.

“Today is the day to stop doubting myself,” Kibel said. “I don’t need a plan B. I took those exams, and I am smart enough. I succeeded in a clinical setting… I did what I thought I could never do. I persevered and I get to graduate as a nurse.”

Kibel told her fellow graduates that the past few years were about learning the “value of relationships, the true importance of hard work, the intensity of failures, along with humility, perseverance and resilience.

“We’ve endured late nights of studies, juggling multiple responsibilities and perhaps even moments of self-doubt. But here we are about to walk across the stage, getting ready to take on the next chapter of our lives,” she said. “You have succeeded. We have made it, and I hope all of you continue to follow your dreams.”

The graduates were given a speech by associated student government president and nursing program graduate Ivana Kibel. (Bailey Duran/Special to The Journal)

Upon finishing her speech, Kibel took off her maroon-colored graduation gown to reveal a pink graduation gown underneath.

The 2024 graduating class graduated with 317 degrees and certificates among all of the students. Two earned a bachelor’s degree from PCC’s advanced paramedic practitioner program, and one graduate earned a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene.

Among the 277 graduates were 53 area high school students who received a degree or certificate from PCC’s concurrent enrollment program. The degrees and certifications included three associate degrees and 56 certificates in automotive technology, welding and health programs.

The Montezuma-Cortez High School auditorium was full with standing room only at the Pueblo Community College commencement. (Bailey Duran/Special to The Journal)

After attending graduates received their diplomas, PCC President Dr. Patty Erjavec provided closing remarks and tearfully thanked the class of 2024 as she spoke of her upcoming retirement this summer.

“Today, as I bid farewell to you in my role as president, I find myself reflecting on the countless memories and achievements we have shared,” Erjavec said. “As you prepare to step out into the world beyond college, I encourage you to embrace with open arms the opportunities that lie ahead.”

She told the graduates they’ll enter a world that’s “constantly evolving, where change is the only constant.

“Let your thirst for knowledge be your guiding light,” she said. “I also urge you to never forget that values and principles that you have learned during your time here at PCC: integrity, compassion and resilience. They are the cornerstones of a fulfilling and meaningful life. Stay true to yourself and to your beliefs that have guided you thus far, and I promise you will find success in whatever you choose to pursue.”

Erjavec also told the graduated that a 1,000-mile journey begins with one step.

“Embrace it with courage, passion and determination, and the world will be yours for the taking. Make us at PCC proud. I will forever remain your biggest fan. Congratulations,” she said.

Graduates were dismissed by Director of Student Services Lisa Molina, who gave the class of 2024 final words of encouragement.

“Remember, this is just the beginning,” Molina said. “As you step out into the world armed with knowledge and experience, embrace the challenges that lie ahead with courage and conviction, let your passion guide you and never lose sight of your dreams.

“As you leave here today, remember the skills you’ve learned, the friendships you’ve created and the knowledge you’ve gained,” Molina added. “Go forward with confidence in knowing that you are well-equipped to tackle whatever lies ahead. Congratulations class of 2024. Your futures are limitless, your dreams are within reach and we can’t wait to see the incredible things you’ll achieve.”

The graduates then left the stage to the thunderous applause of their families and friends, officially starting the next chapters of their lives.

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