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That's how many new bachelor's and master's degree graduates we're celebrating this week as we gather in Salt Lake City for WGU's 25th semi-annual commencement.
Saturday, July 13, is another record-setting day: Once again, this graduating class is our largest on record. And once again, it's not really about that huge number at all—it's about the number one. As in each and every one of the success stories that make up this remarkable class.
Four of those stories will be told by the graduates themselves. Our four commencement speakers come from all over the country and have some truly inspiring stories to share. You'll meet them below.
But first, some fun facts and figures:
Now, on to the stories.
Kathleen, who has earned her MSN—Education from WGU, is from Ogden, Utah. Kathleen is a world traveler, having just recently visited her 100th country. Some of that travel has been for work; others, for fun. And much of it has been to do volunteer work related to her passion for health care and improving the lives of peoples around the world. Through it all, she was able to work on her schoolwork and stay on track to graduation no matter what country she was in. Her degree has already translated to new success stories for Kathleen: After graduating, she accepted a position as a full-time assistant professor of Nursing at Weber State University, and she has been accepted to Johns Hopkins University's Department of International Health for a post-graduate certification in Global Health.
Erica is from Bushkill, Pennsylvania, and graduated with her B.S. in IT—Security. Her first foray into college education was in the performing arts, but through her years of working in various fields she recognized the "computer nerd" hiding inside her. But she spent 15 years working jobs that didn't lead where she wanted to go, always "allowing life's distractions to stop me." WGU gave her the opportunity to earn her degree despite those distractions—and her mentor helped her stick with it when the going got tough. Now she has that long-awaited bachelor's degree and is coming back to WGU to earn her master's.
Diana Rexroat Cardenas
Diana is a Phoenix, Arizona, resident who has earned her B.S. in Finance. A mother of four, she tried and tried again to earn a college degree, but traditional educational models never fit her lifestyle. In fact, WGU was her seventh attempt at a bachelor's degree. Her success story was driven by more than a commitment to bettering her life and her family's—it was driven by a promise she made to her father just before he passed away. His sense of humor and his pride in her kept her motivated to get through her tasks and earn that long-delayed dream of being a college graduate. And she did it!
Alex Sandoval Jr.
Alex, a B.A. in Special Education graduate from San Diego, California, grew up in a neighborhood plagued by gangs, violence, teen pregnancy, and other barriers to academic success. He also faced a rare and debilitating vision problem that nearly derailed his education as an adolescent. But Alex was also equipped with something else: A determination to succeed, and the knowledge that education was how he would get there. Today, thanks to WGU, he has his teaching degree, and he vows to use that degree to give back to the community he grew up in, ensuring education is the path to a better future for kids growing up where he did. He runs an after-school program at his local middle school—and last month, the principal of that school offered him a teaching job for the upcoming school year!
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