The past, present, and future intermingled in the eyes of students graduating as a part of Northern Marianas College’s largest class while they turned their tassels and officially became alumni at the Koblerville gymnasium last Saturday.
NMC interim president Davit J. Attao congratulated the 204 graduates and their families, thanking them for believing in the education the college provides.
“You are here and we continue to strive and we all did it with one main purpose: for all of you to attain and achieve your goal of graduation,” he said, speaking about the resiliency of students and the island after Typhoon Soudelor. “You’ve earned your degrees. No one else can take that from you.”
Attao noted that nearly half of the graduates will return to NMC to “climb higher” in their education and study under their bachelor’s programs. A number of the other graduates, he added, will take care of their family, join the armed forces, and seek employment.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, U.S Delegate Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (Ind-MP), Saipan Mayor David Apatang, members of the House of Representatives, department heads, and other dignitaries joined the community in congratulating the students on their achievement.
In his address, Torres recounted his childhood experience of living with several family members in one bedroom. The governor spoke of his siblings’ struggle to attain higher education and his parents, who made it possible for them to do so.
“We never realized how hard and difficult it is they [my parents] worked to put us there. So when you hold your degree, hold it with pride because it is not just for you,” he added. “You represent your parents, your family, and your children. Parents do everything for their children… When you take that degree stand tall and represent your community.”
NMC External Relations director Frankie Elliptic served as the keynote speaker.
Among the many students beaming with pride, were Riya Rajkumar Nathrani and Nicole Ichihara Sablan, recipients of the prestigious Academic Excellence award.
Nathrani, who graduated with her A.A. in liberal arts with an emphasis in education and B.S. in education with an elementary education concentration, spoke of her family’s move to the island from India when she was just 4 years old.
“They moved here to achieve the American dream,” she said. “Today that dream becomes a reality.”
“What is important is that we did not give up. We became stronger as a result of the challenges we face. It does not stop here…don’t be afraid to fail. It is all part of the journey,” she added.
Nathrani was also awarded the Student Leadership Award for her outstanding leadership skills. Among her many accomplishments, she will be traveling to Washington, D.C. next month to intern for the Hindu American Congressional and Advocacy program.
For her part, Nicole Sablan spoke about how this was the third valedictory address she delivered in her lifetime. Fighting back tears, she said, “I extend my heartfelt gratitude to those who have supported me. Thank you for making me work hard and pushing me past the breaking point.”
She added, “This degree is a milestone in my life…I feel confident that every graduate here will go on to do amazing things.”
Carey Nishizuki Demapan, graduating with her Associate of Science in natural resource management, is this year’s recipient of the Excellence in Service award as well as 2nd honor. Demapan is the president of the college’s Environmental Natural Resource Organization club.
“I want a better CNMI, and I want to give back to my community the best way I know how…helping conserve our land and natural resources for future generations,” she said.
The record-breaking number of graduates concluded the commencement exercise with a rendition of Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten.”
Last weekend’s ceremony also included NMC’s first batch of students to graduate with their bachelor’s degree in business management. The graduation theme was “Behind you, all the memories. Before you, all your dreams.”