By Helena Rodriguez: Freedom New Mexico
Eastern New Mexico University graduated 355 students on Saturday, and among these new college graduates are five Elida students who make up almost half of the Elida High School Class of 2004.
Also on Saturday, an honorary posthumous degree was presented to Kent and Sherri Best, parents of Heidi Best, a 2003 graduate of Elida High School who died on June 15, 2007, following a car accident. At the time of her death, Best was nearly finished working on a bachelor of science degree in agriculture at ENMU.
A dozen students graduated from EHS in 2004. Among the new ENMU graduates from the Elida class of 2004 on Saturday were Halee Jo Best, the older sister of Heidi, who received a bachelor of science degree in religion. They also included Melissa Duran Conn, Shay Daughtrey, Rebecca Banther Gossett and Samantha Southard Spiva.
Daughtrey, who went to school in Elida from kindergarten to 12th grade, received a bachelor of business administration degree and hopes to find a job soon in the finance industry.
“There is kind of a special bond between us Elida High School graduates,” said Daughtrey, who went on to attribute their timely graduation partially to the Elida school system.
“They got us ready for college and for the real world,” Daughtrey said. “We all got a really good base that we needed.”
Although Daughtrey doesn’t have a job yet, he said he has a few interviews lined up with some companies in Albuquerque and expects to have a job soon. “I’ve talked to a few other people graduating who have jobs lined up. The job market may be slowing down some, but I think you can actually find a good job. I feel a college degree is worth something. It is a very valuable tool to have.”
Melissa Duran Conn earned a degree in early childhood education. After attending Elida schools from ninth to 12th grades, she said of her classmates, “We’ve all kind of parted into our own ways, but I’d say that schooling in Elida really prepared me for college. They were small classes, and the teachers gave you one-on-one attention in the classroom.”
Duran Conn said the small class size is something she also appreciated while working on her degree at ENMU. Now she hopes to go to work for a small school district. She said she is applying for a teaching job in Artesia, where her husband, Matthew, is already employed. She and Matthew met each other while attending ENMU.
Shortly before degrees were conferred and handed out Saturday, Judy Armstrong, the retiring president of ENMU-Roswell, gave graduates some tough “real world” words of wisdom.
Her four main pieces of advice were:
1. Manage your time, noting that college students often experience workplace shock because there are no more spring breaks and other extended vacations.
2. She stressed the importance of proper speech, behavior and professionalism as well as dress. No more college slang, she warned.
3. She pointed out to students that they will find that college has not prepared them for everything and talked about the importance of dealing with diverse people and balancing life between work and family. “Having a college degree does not entitle you to a job,” she said. “I know you will find this hard to believe, but you really do not know it all.” She also talked about the harsh reality of possibly having to start in an entry level job.
4. Finally, Armstrong warned students, “Never think your life will go exactly as you have planned!” She talked about times when she was unemployed and about the challenges of working full-time while working on her doctoral degree.
Armstrong closed by saying, “While I want you to be the best you can be in your career, I don’t want you to lose sight of what is truly important in life. The best preparation for your career (or retirement, as in her case) has to do with your attitude. Learn to adapt to challenges and change, and be open to new possibilities.”