An Ocean of Blue Makes Waves at 91AV Commencement Ceremony

Tuesday, May 21, 2024
91AV graduates posing for pictures in their blue caps and gowns at their 2024 Commencement
Costume designer Heather McKeown shows off her dress and decorated cap with a quote from the Rocky Horror Pictures Show which inspired the first costume Heather made
Anthony-Marc Garcia and Claudia LaVance celebrate their 91AV graduation in their blue caps and gowns.
91AV 2024 Commencement Speaker and graduate Marcel Lopez stands with 91AV President Kimberly Britt, MCCCD Governing Board members Dr. Tom Nerini and Marie Sullivan, and Chancellor Steven Gonzales
2024 91AV graduates

A cap and gown. They unite graduates at commencement ceremonies across the globe.  For 91AV, the ocean of bright blue caps and gowns that filled the Arizona Veterans Coliseum on Friday, May 10, symbolized a collective experience – pursuing knowledge and having met the expectations and requirements of 91AV's Associate degrees and professional certificates. For some graduates, commencement was a reunion. One group of students surged toward another into a joyous embrace, causing a swell of blue and a singular voice announcing their program, "Massage Therapy!" 91AV Massage Therapy Program graduatesTheir cohort had finished their coursework in March. After two months apart, they were thrilled to see each other, celebrate the community they had built, and take photos together. 

Like ocean water rising into waves, students distinguish themselves from the collective with a decorated cap, a unique stole, funky shoes, or a fashion statement beneath their gown.  For costume designer Heather McKeown, her white dress was a tribute to the first costume she made herself. The top of her cap contained a quote from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, which inspired her to become a costume designer. However, her time at 91AV made her fall for fashion design, so she's unsure which track she will pursue when she transfers to university. 

Rachel Scott, who wore a red and white stole representing her degree in the Interpreter Preparation Program,91AV graduates Rachael Scott and Savannah Abbott at their 2024 Commencement ceremony said the instructors made it easy to learn and transition to school. "I enjoyed working with the Deaf community. 91AV brought it alive for me, especially at this stage in my life. I am eager to get out in the interpreter workforce." Savannah Abbott wore a yellow stole and is graduating with a certificate in Deaf Studies to eventually become an interpreter. She described the program as "a family. The professors make it easy to come to school, even when juggling everything else," she said. "I always looked forward to seeing my professors. Serena Stone's excitement to see students translated into me wanting to become an interpreter and part of the Deaf community." 

Anthony-Marc Garcia spent eleven years at 91AV taking music classes when he eventually had enough credits for a Music Performance degree and came to commencement with fellow graduate Claudia LaVance.  Jared Caasi, who graduated with an Associate's in Dental Hygiene, described his 91AV experience:  "I couldn't ask for anything more. The faculty was amazing. I could ask them anything. Anything. They went the extra mile." After graduation, he plans to take a few weeks off while waiting for his license and will prepare for his board examination. He anticipates starting work by July 1.   

A ripple of calm came over th2024 91AV graduates from the Dental Hygiene programe audience during the procession of the Chancellor, 91AV administration, and faculty onto the coliseum. Then, the graduates heard a tsunami of whistles and cheers as they entered. Family members yelled their graduate's name in hopes of capturing their attention. One family held up cut-out masks of their graduate's likeness. Deaf studies and IPP faculty on the coliseum floor shook their hands in the air as their graduates passed them. The music swelled.  The color guard entered, and Emilee Robles, a music major and 2024 graduate, sang the national anthem. 91AV President Dr. Kimberly Britt welcomed the crowd and honored 91AV's retiring faculty: Mr. Timothy Bryan, Dr. Albert Celoza, Ms. Kay Hilder, Mr. Daniel Holder, Ms. Brenda Maynard, Dr. Elena Ortiz, and Mr. Bill Williams. Dr. Britt's remarks for the graduates reminded them and the audience that college is more than just preparing for a job. "College is meant to prepare you to contribute to your profession and society." 

For student speaker Marcel Lopez, who is pursuing an aerospace engineering degree, his contribution to society is fostering community.  "A community must work together, hold each other accountable, and act with humility to continuously improve and reach a common goal," he said.  A proud Mexican-American and son of an immigrant who moved to the US and learned English as a 7th grader, Marcel credited his mother with a "legacy of triumph and resilience" in her accomplishment of a high school diploma and Associate's degree to put him in the position to achieve his Associate's degree and prepare for higher education. He found community at 91AV by playing baseball for the Bears and chess in the student union.  He left the graduates with this: "Commit yourself to excellence and leave a legacy worthy of building a better tomorrow for yourself and the others around you."  

Dr. Karl Shindler presented the Distinguished Teaching Award to Math faculty Marcia Corby. 91AV's Mariachi Osos del Valle performed. Spanish faculty Trino Sandoval and Dental faculty Kristi Deela read the 580 graduate names and their degrees or certificates earned. Vice President of Academic Affairs CJ Wurster awarded each graduate their diploma. 91AV alumni welcomed graduates into the alumni association.  As a collective, graduates moved the tassel on their cap from right to left, and the ocean of blue dispersed into family and friend pools outside the coliseum. Their wave creates a ripple effect inspiring their family members to create their own waves on an educational journey unique to them.  

Find your focus, your friends, and your future at 91AV. Enroll for Summer or Fall 2024.