NOVA graduates share success stories
May 15, 2014
Northern Virginia Community College will hold its 48th Commencement Ceremony at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 18 at the Patriot Center at George Mason University. More than 6,800 graduates are expected to be awarded associate degrees and certificates.
The commencement address will be delivered by Dr. Charles Errico, a professor of history and assistant dean for the social sciences at NOVA’s Woodbridge Campus. Each NOVA student has a unique story to tell about the journey that brought them to graduation day. The following are some of those stories:
Celi Palhua-Flores, Electrical Engineering, Annandale Campus
As an undocumented high school student born in Peru, Celi Palhua-Flores wasn’t sure what his future held after graduation. But one thing was clear – he wanted to further his education.
He got accepted to several four-year universities but couldn’t afford the out-of-state tuition. Committed to getting an education, he enrolled at Northern Virginia Community College because he knew the tuition was more affordable.
“I can’t think of a better place to have spent the last two years than NOVA,” says Palhua-Flores, 20. On Sunday, May 18, Palhua-Flores will be awarded an associate degree in science with a specialization in electrical engineering from NOVA.
Frank Estevao Maia, Business Administration, Alexandria and Manassas campuses
When Frank Estevao Maia, 28, walks across the stage to receive his degree on Sunday, May 18 from Northern Virginia Community College, he will stand on the shoulders of many. His family. His wife. His academic advisor and mentor. His friends.
Maia attended the Alexandria and Manassas campuses and will graduate summa cum laude with an associate of science degree in business administration. He has a 4.0 GPA and is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.
“It’s overwhelming. It really is,” he says. “I had dreamed of getting an education for so long and now it is becoming a reality.”
Gabriela Guzman, General Studies, Alexandria Campus
Gabriela Guzman’s early life was rocked by instability. She was shuttled between homes, her father was deported and she became pregnant at 16.
She could have given up on herself, but she didn’t. When everyone told her to just her GED rather than go to college, she didn’t listen. On Sunday, May 18, Guzman will earn her associate of science degree in general studies from Northern Virginia Community College.
She has been accepted to transfer to George Mason University to study philosophy and law. Eventually, she wants to attend law school and become a defense attorney.
Sara Ruschaupt, General Studies, Loudoun Campus
At 76 years old, Sara Ruschaupt has accomplished a lot. She worked. She married. Raised four children. Lived overseas. Retired. But one thing has eluded her for over 50 years – a college degree.
That will change on Sunday, May 18 when she is awarded an associate of science degree in general studies from Northern Virginia Community College. Also walking in the graduation will be her granddaughter, Abby Ruschaupt.
Sara Ruschaupt has a message for older people: “Stay active. Stay involved. Continue to learn.”
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Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.