More than 1,800 graduate from San Juan College during ceremony

There were 113 students who earned bachelors, masters degrees

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
  • San Juan College, the New Mexico Highlands Farmington Center and University of New Mexico San Juan Center hosted the spring commencement ceremony on the morning of May 11 in the Learning Commons Plaza.
  • The guest speaker was Four Corners Economic Development, Inc. (4CED) Chief Executive Officer Arvin Trujillo.
  • Melanie Kee was selected as this year's student speaker. She earned her Associate of Applied Science in Digital Media Arts and Design and a Creative Writing certificate

FARMINGTON — Friends and family members of more than 1,900 graduates gathered on the San Juan College campus to celebrate and congratulate them on earning their degrees.

San Juan College, the New Mexico Highlands Farmington Center and University of New Mexico San Juan Center hosted the spring commencement ceremony on the morning of May 11 in the Learning Commons Plaza.

More than 1,800 San Juan College students earned their associate degrees and certificates as 113 students earned their bachelor's and master's degrees from NMHU and UNM.

It was a special day for Lenora Tacheenie, who graduated this year along with her two daughters; Lenorda Tacheenie and Raylene Yazzie.

Lenorda Tacheenie, left, and Lenora Tacheenie, right, help Raylene Yazzie, center, with her cap in the Henderson Fine Arts Center before the San Juan College spring Commencement Ceremony on May 11. The sisters were graduating with their mother Lenora.

Raylene received her Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education and Lenora got her Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts from San Juan College. Lenorda earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from NMHU.

"I'm happy for my mom," Raylene Yazzie said. "Now I get to sit there and watch my mom cross the stage and my sister as well."

It was Lenora's daughters who pushed her to go to college, with Lenorda helping her mother enroll at San Juan College.

"I was like, 'I'm too old,'" Lenora said. "But then, they both said age has no limit."

Lenora has applied to NMHU to pursue a bachelor's degree.

Frances Vitali, an instructor in the teacher education program at the University of New Mexico's San Juan Center, leads UNM graduates to the spring Commencement Ceremony on May 11.

Melanie Kee was selected as this year's student speaker. She took the stage to encourage her fellow graduates to be thankful and think of others in the community.

She earned her Associate of Applied Science in Digital Media Arts and Design and a Creative Writing certificate, and will attend Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, in the fall. She will study English literature.

"I was just amazed when I found out," Kee said of being selected as student speaker. "It was overwhelming."

Kee practiced her speech several times but felt overwhelmed with emotion when she looked up from the podium and saw thousands of people in the audience.

San Juan College Graduate Melanie Kee was the student speaker during the spring Commencement Ceremony on May 11.

"I've talked to a few hundred people but this was totally different," Kee said.

She is planning on attending law school with a focus on tribal government.

The guest speaker was Four Corners Economic Development, Inc. (4CED) Chief Executive Officer Arvin Trujillo.

He shared some of his accomplishments with the crowd, including working on the project to expand U.S. Highway 491 to four lanes from two lanes of traffic.

"I'm sharing these accomplishments with you, not to seek your praise or a pat on the back," Trujillo said. "To show you what you can achieve if you put your mind to it and develop your character traits to meet your vision."

San Juan College Graduate Aileah Shorty wears her decorated cap as she prepares for her name to be called during the spring Commencement Ceremony on May 11, 2019.

Before the ceremony, graduates lined up in the Henderson Fine Arts Center before walking to the Learning Commons Plaza.

Amanda Pittman described the commencement ceremony as very surreal.

She earned her Associate of Arts in Business Administration and is enrolled at UNM to earn her bachelor's degree.

Pittman described herself as having entrepreneurial blood in her, as her father and uncle owned their own businesses.

"It's definitely a path I want to take," Pittman said.

David Samples was one of the students who graduated with an Associate Degree in Nursing from San Juan College and a bachelor's degree in Nursing from UNM.

He has already landed a job at San Juan Regional Medical Center and said  it felt amazing to attend the ceremony.

"I just wanted to be able to help people in need," Samples said.

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

Graduates from San Juan College, New Mexico Highlands and the University of New Mexico listen to Guest Speaker Four Corners Economic Development, Inc. (4CED) Chief Executive Officer Arvin Trujillo during the spring Commencement Ceremony