NOVA celebrated its 52nd graduation on Saturday, May 12, among a high-energy and filled amphitheater. The Honorable Elizabeth R. Guzman, elected to represent Virginia’s 31st House of Delegates in the General Assembly, delivered the commencement address to approximately 1,400 graduating students – the largest attendance of a NOVA graduation in the past five years at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Va.
As a NOVA alumna, Guzman shared her personal story to inspire grads that they can achieve anything with perseverance and determination. After graduating from high school in her home country of Callao, Peru, her family did not have enough money to send her to college. She became a single mother at the age of 18. After deciding to relocate to Northern Virginia in 1998, she worked three jobs to support her family — at Wendy’s, CVS and a department store. Guzman enrolled at NOVA and obtained an associate degree in office administration and management.
“You are the only author of your life, no one can define who you are but yourself. Use this event as the beginning of your future,” said Guzman. “Continue to aspire, believe in yourself and you will achieve anything. The future of this country is in your hands. I see before me a class of empowered individuals. It’s never too late to go to college for people who are ready to take on the challenges of the future. Let’s be proud Nighthawks, let’s be proud NOVA graduates!”
Dr. Scott Ralls charged graduates to remember that NOVA is embodied in the beliefs of this year’s commencement theme of Believe, Aspire and Achieve. Ralls noted that NOVA is built on the achievement of millions of supporters, faculty, staff and students whose work over the years has made the College the largest institution of public higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the mid-Atlantic US.
“When you came to NOVA, you didn’t just enroll, you believed in a better future for yourself, your families and our world,” said Ralls. “Your achievements required grit and resilience. Believe in yourself with the self-confidence of a NOVA graduate, seeking out others who may have self-doubts with a goal of helping them journey further down their own pathways of success.”
This year’s graduating class included a mother and a son; a husband and a wife; a mother who considered herself to be a nontraditional-aged student; a Gilman Scholarship recipient; a winner of the Metropolitan Council of Governments essay contest and students originally from Madagascar, Ukraine, India, Argentina and Ethiopia.
NOVA College Board Student Representative Brenda Medrano-Frias, shared with graduates that prior to enrolling at NOVA, she wasn’t sure of herself. She attributed her self-discovery to the words of affirmation received from NOVA faculty and staff.
“During my years at NOVA, I always found myself surrounded by strong mentors and role models,” Medrano-Frias said. “Through the guidance, I found here, I was able to discover my own voice. NOVA professors and staff are truly what makes this college a community, a family. To the class of 2018, always remember that you started here and be proud of it!”