MSJC's 2012 Commencement Signals New Beginnings

Graduation will take place on May 31, 2012 at the Ramona Bowl Amphitheater
 
When more than 1,300 Mt. San Jacinto College students walk across the stage at the Ramona Bowl Amphitheater to receive their diplomas on May 31, it will signal a new beginning for many. For others it will be a defining moment they never expected to experience.
 
Among the graduates: Stacie Macias, who returned to school after her children had grown; Kenneth Prado, who turned from drug addiction toward education to better his life; and Daniel Tripp, who is on his way to UCLA.
 
StacieMacias.jpgStacie Macias recalls getting the MSJC semester schedules in the mail for years.
 
“In between helping my kids with their homework and getting dinner ready, I would pore over those schedules, picking out the classes I would take if I had the time to go to college,” she said. 
 
After her children graduated from high school and moved on with their own lives, Macias found herself with some of that precious commodity: time. 
 
“By this time I was well past what is considered ‘college age’ and I felt a little silly so I decided I would just take a couple of classes at the Menifee Valley Campus for fun,” said Macias, of Lake Elsinore. 
 
After a few semesters of taking classes, she was hooked and did not want to stop. She was accumulating credits and getting straight As.
“It occurred to me that I might actually be able to get an associate’s degree,” she recalled.
 
She focused on her general education requirements with the intention of majoring in early childhood education but changed her mind after taking American history, which she had loved in high school.
 
“The general education requirements put a student in front of a smorgasbord of knowledge and makes him or her take a taste of each dish,” she discovered. “What one person finds unpalatable, another person loves.”
 
Macias took several history classes with Dr. Jim Davis who became her favorite teacher and mentor of sorts. She became a history tutor at the Learning Resource Center and then a Supplemental Instruction leader.
 
“Being an SI leader for the past five semesters has helped me prepare for my goal of becoming a history instructor,” she said. “I am now about to transfer to Cal State, San Marcos as a history major and hope to return to MSJC in three or four years to teach. My sights are now set on attaining my master’s degree in history.”
 
In 2009, Macias received the William H. McNeill Award for excellence in history. In 2012, she was one of four MSJC students selected for the 2012 Phi Theta Kappa All-California Community College Academic Team. She received a medallion of honor and certificate for her accomplishments.
 
“College is a great big swimming pool. I admire the students who can cannonball off the diving board into the deep end,” said Macias. “I have taken the steps down into the shallow end, one at a time. I’m in the deep end now but I’ve been in the pool so long my skin is getting wrinkly. My advice to incoming students would be to cannonball into the deep end if you can. If you can’t, be patient and persistent.”
 
KenPradoBusShelter235.jpgKenneth Prado replaced his drug addiction with education and will proudly accept an Associate’s degree diploma in Alcohol and Drug Studies and an Associate of Arts degree in Social/Behavioral Sciences on graduation day. He already earned his certificate in Alcohol and Drug Studies.
Prado said he has become a God-fearing man who wants to help others.
 
“My favorite moment in college was when I received an e-mail from a fellow student thanking me for the help that I was able to provide for him and the opportunity to let him believe in himself that he could be somebody,” said Prado, 39, of Hemet. “If I could give one message of advice to incoming students it would be to get involved, ask questions and don’t let pride or shame get in the way of your success.” 
 
Prado took his first classes in the fall of 2008 at MSJC’s San Jacinto campus and quickly absorbed more than the academic programs available.
He became a senator and student senate representative for the Student Government Association and a mentor for other students. 
 
“I was able to spearhead the bus shelter proposal for the San Jacinto campus,” said Prado. “I was blessed to start a campus club called “a 2nd chance” – an empowerment program. It is now two years old and has given eight scholarships to MSJC students who have been at risk or have made bad decisions in life but now want to go to college and get an education.”
 
His graduation plans include continuing to work at Sun Ray Addictions in Hemet as a substance abuse counselor and enrolling at Azusa Pacific University to obtain his bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership.
 
DanielTripp219.jpgDaniel Tripp enrolled at MSJC in 2009. By 2011, he was elected Student Government Association and during his term brought many programs to campuses district-wide.
 
Tripp, of Canyon Lake, began studying at MSJC with the intent of preparing to become a medical doctor.
“Along the way I’ve developed a passion for music and have taken several classes to expand my knowledge and experience in this discipline,” he said. 
 
He is transferring to UCLA to study biochemistry and declare a minor in music to study composition and piano. He will receive his diploma in the field of biological sciences.
 
He said many instructors helped him along the way and he considers them to be friends he can talk to on campus, advisors that help him make difficult choices, cheerleaders that keep his spirits up and mentors that he will continue to emulate.
 
“The Student Government Association and Phi Theta Kappa (national honor society) have given me vast leadership experience and allowed me to work with top quality students who share some of my goals and interests,” said Tripp.
 
He said his parents always encouraged him to go to college, stressing its importance. In fact, his mother and three sisters also attend MSJC.
 
“When I was very young – five or six years old – my father sat me down and drew a diagram that resembled a pyramid with each level representing a level of education. The size of each level represented the number of people that had reached that level. He showed me how each level was smaller and more prestigious than the last. So I sought to reach those levels. It was instant motivation and I’ve been working toward my goal ever since.”
 
So whether it’s the fulfillment of a lifelong goal or the realization of a late in life dream, there will be many lives changed at the Ramona Bowl in Hemet on May 31.
 
MSJC will award 1,688 associate’s degrees and 232 certificates to a total of 1,318 graduates during the May 31, 2012 commencement. Last year, MSJC awarded 1,649 associate’s degrees and 249 to 1,322 graduates.
 
Commencement begins at 6 p.m. at 27400 Ramona Bowl Road in Hemet. For more information, visit www.msjc.edu