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50 Years of Higher Education at ACC: Clear Skies Ahead For Graduates

ACC%27s+50th+Annual+Commencement+at+Denver+University%2C+May.+10%2C+2017%2C+Denver%2C+CO.+Rashid+Mohamed
ACC's 50th Annual Commencement at Denver University, May. 10, 2017, Denver, CO. Rashid Mohamed

ACC's 50th Annual Commencement at Denver University, May. 10, 2017, Denver, CO. Rashid Mohamed

ACC's 50th Annual Commencement at Denver University, May. 10, 2017, Denver, CO. Rashid Mohamed

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Denver, May. 10–Inside the golden-towered Daniel L. Ritchie Center on DU’s campus, the crowds began to swell, as parents, families, and friends, coming to celebrate ACC’s 50th graduating class, huddled in out of the dreary evening downpour.

In honor of this academic milestone, a fine venue was chosen for the graduating ceremony—the capricious Magness Arena, a pro-like indoor stadium, home to the DU Pioneers.

Upstairs, in the Gottesfeld room of the Ritchie Center, Faculty and Administrators, rallied for last minute regalia adjustments, as a few ACC dignitaries took the opportunity for a quick pep talk.

Downstairs, draped in their crisply ironed lilac graduation gowns, with crowning caps to match, young scholars anxiously scanned the sizable crowd, in search of loved ones.

Proud parents, overjoyed that their academic investments paid off, waved passionately at the soon-to-be alumni.

ACC’s 50th Annual Commencement at Denver University, May. 10, 2017, Denver, CO. Rashid Mohamed

Dr. Matsushita, Director of ACC’s Music Department conducted guests to their seats with soft classical tunes, on a sleek, black Yamaha grand piano. 

With everyone in place, President Diana M. Doyle, Ph.D., initiated the proceedings by welcoming all the visitors and special guests, and recognizing this year’s exceptionally accomplished students. She supplemented this with an inaugural speech that reminded the audience how far the school has come.

A pioneer in its own right, Arapahoe Community College, brainchild of the Littleton Community, came into existence in 1965, as the first community college to open its doors in the wider Denver metro area.

Five decades ago, when ACC was still only a Junior College, the average graduating class of 1967 was 19 years old, whereas today’s graduating class spans a much wider age spectrum, contributing to a more symbiotic learning experience.

“The students of 1967 were required to take a physical education class, not one, not two, but every single semester, and each student was required to participate in the tutoring group,” recounted Dr. Doyle.

ACC’s 50th Annual Commencement at Denver University, May. 10, 2017, Denver, CO. Rashid Mohamed

An air of jubilation filled the Arena as students eagerly anticipated their well-deserved credentials. And for those heading towards a four-year degree, the timing could not be better.

According to recent analysis, based on statistics from the Economic Policy Institute, the pay of people with college degrees is on the rise compared to that of those with high school degrees, for whom earning has stayed relatively flat.

Tellingly, this is a step in the right direction but to effectively narrow the ever-growing wage gap, and consequently support the economy, more students need to graduate.

We have too few college graduates,” argues MIT Professor David Autor, whose research focuses on labor economics. “We also have too few people who are prepared for college,” alluding to the inflexible nature of most four-year Colleges and Universities towards non-traditional students.

The National Center for Education Statistics identifies non-traditional students as: “Those that do not continue education after graduating from high school, attend college only part-time, work full-time (35 hours or more per week), are a single parent, have dependents other than a spouse, and are financially independent.”

Echoing this very sentiment was Nate Bertz, first of the three student  keynote speakers that evening. Treasurer of Student Government and Senior Student Recruitment Officer, Nate joined ACC in Spring 2014 as a non-traditional student.

Growing up, I was always the student teachers looked at and said, ‘this student is going to fail, I know,’” explained Nate. “I was picked last in gym class, I was picked last in every class. It took me eight years to come back to school and I’m glad I did.”

Nate, who articulated to the audience how he overcame his learning impediments, graduated that evening with an Associates of Arts Degree, and plans to pursue a Bachelors in Accounting and Finance at Denver Metropolitan State University in the Fall.

ACC’s 50th Annual Commencement at Denver University, May. 10, 2017, Denver, CO. Rashid Mohamed

Acclaimed Student of the Year and President of ACC’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter, Senior Leah Porter, who came to ACC from Malaysia via a multitude of countries, gave a rousing speech on the importance of staying brave in the face of fleeting adversity.

I am no longer the person who walked through ACC’s doors three years ago. I’ve learned so much about my field, my teachers, and myself. I have discovered my strength, my talents, and most importantly, my confidence.”

When Faculty of the Year and keynote speaker Adam Shelffo took to the podium, he requested from the newly-graduates a lasting pledge: adhere to the Social Psychology rule of reciprocity, that is, pay back in kind what another has provided.

Be flexible. Learn to bend but do not break.”

A welcome laugh, courtesy of a commencement video, portraying Faculty and Administration getting down to the theme of “I get around,” by the Beach Boys, loosened the young students up before their commencement walk.

ACC’s 50th Annual Commencement at Denver University, May. 10, 2017, Denver, CO. Rashid Mohamed

ACC’s 50th Annual Commencement at Denver University, May. 10, 2017, Denver, CO. Rashid Mohamed

“I feel fantastic and I’m moving on to the University of Colorado, Denver,” declared new Psychology graduate, Deanna Hanson.

Now equipped with a solid academic portfolio, the newly minted college graduates will be well on their way to tackle the technologically and socially complex demands of today’s world.

New data from the Labor Department confirming last month’s unemployment rate drop to 4.4 percent, gives rise to promise of employment for recent graduates. The future looks optimistic.

ACC’s 50th Annual Commencement at Denver University, May. 10, 2017, Denver, CO. Rashid Mohamed

Incidentally, it is never too late to pursue a degree. Just this past week, 88-year-old Horace Sheffield, of Barnesville, Georgia, completed a life long goal by walking across the stage at Shorter University to receive his diploma. For some, the yearning for learning burns eternal. 

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50 Years of Higher Education at ACC: Clear Skies Ahead For Graduates