HCC salutes Class of 2017 with Commencement Ceremonies at NRG Stadium
May 13, 2017
As if trying to breathe in the moment, Houston Community College (HCC) graduate Rafael Pruneda looked around NRG stadium as a multitude of students took their place to walk on the stage and receive their diplomas for an associate degree.
“I am 47 years old,” said Pruneda with a smile. “I already had a career in law enforcement. Raising my seven-year-old daughter was the main motivation to come back to school. This degree has been 20 years in the making.”
On May 13, Pruneda’s excitement was shared by more than 2,200 HCC graduates who attended one of two commencement ceremonies on that day. One of them was Yasir Khalid, whose self-confidence propelled him to pursue a degree in engineering.
“Today I feel so happy. I came to this country four years ago and I did not speak a lot of English,” remembers Khalid. “To complete my degree, I had two jobs and sometimes almost no time to sleep. I will remember this phase of my life as one of a lot of hard work.”
HCC Chancellor Dr. Cesar Maldonado described this moment as one of great joy and also as the start of future professional accomplishments. “This is a new beginning of tremendous opportunities,” Dr. Maldonado said. “Our graduates are moving into the future and I hope they realize that they should continue being life-long learners.”
Dr. Maldonado acknowledged the commitment from all of those who contributed to the success of the graduates. “This is the best part of the year and it is the best part of my job to celebrate and recognize the achievements of our students and recognize the efforts of our faculty and staff.”
Eva Loredo, HCC Board of Trustees Chair, viewed the ceremony as a history-making event. “For many families, these graduates are the first ones to graduate from college, the first ones to pursue a professional career,’ explained Loredo. It is our hope that you prosper and achieve your dreams. I am so proud of all of you.”
State Representative and proud HCC alumna, Mary Ann Perez, who received an honorary degree, encouraged the graduates to never stop believing in themselves. “I am incredibly honored,” said Perez. “I started my education at HCC and, as an alumna, I want every student to know that they can be anything they want to be. Don’t let anything stop you from getting ahead.”
Other honorary degrees were awarded to Christina Morales, President of the Felix H. Morales Funeral Home, Fort Bend County Commissioner Grady Prestage, Michael Segal, a leader in the social work arena in the Houston area and Sarah B. Winkler, Board Secretary for the Alief Independent School District.
Chris Canetti, President of Business Operations for the Houston Dynamo, delivered one commencement address. The other came from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner who had a remarkable message for the graduates.
“I look forward to seeing where you are five or 10 years from now,” Turner said. “You have the tools. You are now graduating from one of the finest community colleges in the United States. I pray that you do not allow anybody or anything to stay in your way. On your marks, get set and let’s go. Congratulations to the class of 2017!” concluded Turner.
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For more on our Commencement Ceremonies, please visit hccs.edu/graduation