Community college graduations booked tonight - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Community college graduations booked tonight

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Posted: Thursday, May 8, 2008 8:29 pm | Updated: 10:25 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Michael O’Brien came from Mesa. Alex Kalinin came from Russia. Together, the graduates of Chandler-Gilbert Community College are heading into the future.

SLIDESHOW: Community colleges prepare for graduations

Michael O’Brien came from Mesa. Alex Kalinin came from Russia. Together, the graduates of Chandler-Gilbert Community College are heading into the future.

SLIDESHOW: Community colleges prepare for graduations

They are two of the thousands of East Valley community college students who will celebrate their graduations tonight. Also having commencement ceremonies are Mesa and Scottsdale community colleges.

“I achieved my goal,” said Kalinin, a software development major. “It’s going to be real exciting.”

Kalinin plans to take a year off before enrolling at Arizona State University. During the interim, he will save money so he can continue his education.

But for O’Brien, there is no time off. This fall, he’ll be taking classes at Cornell University of the esteemed Ivy League. Not bad for a fellow who was detailing cars just a few years ago.

“The biggest thing I learned here while at Chandler-Gilbert was how to be a student,” the 22-year-old O’Brien said Thursday. “You can’t just expect things to happen to you: good grades, to get into Cornell, scholarships. You’ve got to work at it, you’ve got to be dedicated, you’ve got to give it your all, all the time.”

O’Brien, a graduate of Chandler’s Hamilton High School, first came to CGCC with the intent of becoming a respiratory therapist. He and a friend signed up for classes, but the friend dropped out after the first day.

“I continued on, and in my first semester I got four As,” O’Brien said. “I was pretty excited and thought, ‘Hey, maybe I can do this.’ So, I ended up sticking it out.

“Lo and behold, I’m off to Cornell.”

What Stephen Hill learned at MCC was the value of serving others. He had returned to school following years of work, and soon discovered he was a more dedicated student the second time.

Hill took advantage of MCC’s extracurricular activities, such as student government and Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society of two-year colleges.

Through PTK, Hill helped raise $14,000 to establish in Africa a clean water system, powered by a merry-go-round.

“Service is essential to make the world go around,” said Hill, who will be speaking during the ceremony. “You will receive many times over what you give out.”

Hill is receiving an associate’s degree in business management. He plans to transfer to ASU’s business school next fall.

In all, the three schools are granting degrees and certificates to 5,500 students. For many of them, the 23-year-old Kalinin speaks of their next move.

“I’m just looking for a job.”

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