Sen. Tom Udall to speak at ENMU commencement

Courtesy photo: Jessica and John McGraw Siblings John and Jessica McGraw are teenage students at Eastern New Mexico University and karate instructors in Hobbs. Jessica, 16, is preparing to graduate with her bachelor’s in biology this week, and John expects to finish his bachelor’s in biology and finance in December, at age 19.

Argen Duncan

Sweet 16 and walking the stage.

Among the 484 spring graduates and 69 summer graduates eligible to participate in Eastern New Mexico University’s commencement Saturday is 16-year-old Hobbs resident and biology major Jessica McGraw, according to ENMU information.

Her brother, John, expects to graduate at age 19 in December with a double major in biology and finance.

The siblings say they are no different from anyone else.

“The truth is that anybody can do what we’re doing,” John said in an ENMU article by Robin Haislett. “We are just like everyone else when it comes to our intelligence. All it takes is hard work and the willingness to commit the time it takes to get it done. It’s definitely not easy, but for anybody who really wants to do it badly enough, it can definitely be done.”

The McGraws were home-schooled in seventh and eighth grade before starting dual-credit classes to earn high school and college credit at New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs.

“When I started taking college classes at NMJC in Hobbs, it was to take English and math courses — similar to what high school students do when they get dual-credit,” Jessica said. “After doing well, my brother and I decided to continue taking courses and work on our college degrees.”

After both siblings earned associate degrees in biology, they transferred to ENMU. Their father drove them from Hobbs to Portales for classes.

Jessica said she doesn’t believe graduating at her age enhances or lessens her college experience. It’s a unique experience, she said, but so is every other student’s.

“As far as graduating at a younger age than most people, I don’t really think about it,” she said. “Yeah I’m 16, but it’s just that, I’m 16. Everyone has their own experiences and mine are just a little different than those of most people. I’ve just been lucky enough to have had the support of my family, friends, and educators that has allowed me to have this opportunity.”

After graduation, both plan to pursue master’s degrees.

At ENMU’s commencement convocation, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., is scheduled to give the keynote speech.

“I am honored to play a small part in such a special day for so many Eastern New Mexico students who are completing their degrees and will soon begin a new chapter of their lives,” Udall said in an emailed statement. “Our country is at a difficult and exciting point in its history, and this year’s graduates face the challenge of building a career in a changing economy. But I’m confident that ENMU has prepared them well to succeed in the field of their choice. With hard work and ingenuity, this new generation of professionals will make New Mexico an even better place to work, live and raise a family.”

ENMU President Steven Gamble said Udall agreed to rearrange his schedule to come.

Gamble said commencement day is always wonderful.

“We get to award our graduates the diplomas they have worked so hard for, and their family and friends are there to see it,” he said.

ENMU Commencement activities:

• Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing Pinning Ceremony, 6 p.m. Friday, Music Building Buchanan Hall

• Spring 2011 Academic Honors Convocation, 7:45 a.m. Saturday, Campus Union Building

• Commencement, 10 a.m. Saturday, Greyhound Arena main gym

• Reception, immediately following commencement, Greyhound Arena south gym

Information: 562-2175.