By Rick White
A little less than a year after graduating from Clovis High, John Sando will once again walk across the stage with a diploma in his hand. Tonight, it will be during Clovis Community College’s 17th commencement ceremonies.
More remarkable than earning an associate’s degree in one year is that Sando had a potentially deadly cancerous tumor the size of a softball removed from his thyroid gland in the fall — while completing a full 18-hour class load at the two-year college.
“It’s been a very busy, very stressful year,” said Sando, 18, who was diagnosed with cancer in September. “It will be a relief when I walk across the stage.
“Then I’m going to take the summer off.”
Sando is one of more than 250 students scheduled to receive either associate degrees or certificates of completion during the ceremony, which starts at 6 p.m. in the CCC gymnasium.
A self-proclaimed computer geek, Sando said he was a marginal student until his junior year in high school. That’s when, at the suggestion of his counselor, he started attending CCC’s Career Technical Center, which allows high school students to earn college credits by attending classes in the afternoon as part of their high school curriculum.
It was the academic jump-start Sando needed.
“He was kind of an average student up until then,” Clovis High counselor Diane Tunnell remembers. “He didn’t quite know what he wanted to do. But once he started (at the technical career center) his enthusiasm and interest in school went way up.”
Sando said he reveled in the added responsibility and more hands-on approach of the training center. Plus, instead of the math and history classes he dreaded, he was able to work with computers.
“It’s been great,” said Sando, who plans to pursue a four-year degree in graphic art at Eastern New Mexico University or Arizona State in the fall.
He dreams of working in film production or computer animation, a dream almost cut short by a cancer.
Sando had two operations in a six-week span to remove the cancer, but he didn’t want to give up school.
“I figured the more I though about it, the worse it would be,” Sando said. “If I had something else on my mind, I wouldn’t be thinking about.”