Nevada State College graduates largest class in 20-year history

June Eastridge, dean of the school of nursing, congratulates a student during commencement for ...

Nevada State College graduated its largest class Saturday when 920 students marched across the stage at the Dollar Loan Center.

The students ranged from 20 to 67 years old and came from the School of Education, School of Liberal Arts and Sciences and School of Nursing. The class size broke last year’s record of more than 800 students. The college opened in 2002.

“Here you are starting today with your diploma in hand stepping into your bright future,” Nevada Board of Regents Chair Cathy McAdoo said at the ceremony. “I see your smiles and joy for achieving your goal of being a college graduate. Your resilience, determination and hard work has paid off.”

It was the first commencement overseen by the college’s new president, DeRionne Pollard. Pollard said she shared a background with many of today’s graduates in the “new majority,” which she said included first-generation college students, people of color, immigrants, parents attending college and those trying to find their way out of poverty.

“I’m reminded of my own journey to higher education,” Pollard said as she looked upon the graduates. “I was raised primarily by a single parent, and education helped me find my way out of poverty and helped me find myself … I had to navigate systems and structures that weren’t designed for my success.

Lauren Porter, president of the Nevada State Student Alliance, graduated with a nursing degree. During her speech, she encouraged her peers to be loud and proud about the work it took to get to the stage Saturday.

“Many of us in the room today have walked vast journeys before finding our way back here,” Porter said. “Each step that we have taken has led us to this moment, to this accomplishment. As you cross this stage today, remember that you do not do so alone.”

Damonté Bolden, 27, of North Las Vegas, said in an interview before the ceremony that his biology degree would be the first step in his plans to go to dental school. Bolden and his brother were raised by a single mom, whom Bolden said was surprised by his choice to study biology.

“There’s no health care workers in the family,” Bolden said. “She was surprised I was doing as much work as I did.”

While on campus, Bolden worked for the Office of Community Engagement and Diversity, was a board member of the Black Student Organization and started a pre-dental club.

“I’m actually pretty nervous,” Bolden said before graduation. “As this chapter closes, I’ll be walking into a whole other one. It gives me more purpose to keep going though.”

Celia Gouzy-Skoboloff, 50, was the first person in her family to graduate from college. Her little sister will graduate from the University of Arizona in a few weeks, and her middle son is expected to graduate from UCLA next year.

Gouzy-Skoboloff said she attended four different schools before Nevada State College and had nearly accepted that she would never earn a degree because she was a single mother of three.

“I’m just going to celebrate everybody else that gets to do it,” she thought at the time. “I’m not going to have a turn, and that’s OK.”

The Eldorado High School graduate was working as a human resources manager when she overhead a conversation about Nevada State College being inexpensive and offering online classes. She spent 18 months earning her degree in public administration in law enforcement.

“It totally is a dream come true,” she said through tears before graduation. “The fact that I made it to a college graduation ceremony before any of my children barely by the skin of my teeth? I’m very grateful.”

She plans to attend the University of Nevada, Reno online in the fall. Her children, 15, 21 and 29, and her mother cheered from the audience of the arena Saturday.

“I put my children and my dad’s name on my cap,” she said. “My dad was never able to make it to college, and it was one of his dreams.”

Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter.