Commencement signaled the completion of one life-changing journey and the start of something new for more than 110 degree and certificate-earners sharing the ceremony spotlight May 10 at the Yavapai College Verde Valley campus.

The event's keynote speaker, Cottonwood Mayor Tim Elinski, extolled the 2019 YC graduating class for helping create a vibrant community and strengthening the local economy. And, while he encouraged graduates to stay and build their lives in the Verde Valley, he urged them not to scrimp on adventures. “Please have as many adventures as you possibly can, but do consider coming back to the community that cares about you so much,” he said.

In her address to fellow graduates and a Mabery Pavilion overflowing with well-wishers, 49-year-old aspiring English teacher Shanandoah Sterling of Sedona, looked back on her own, much-delayed educational journey with fondness and mirth. She encouraged her classmates to continue dreaming and setting new goals. “Take the foundations of success gained here at Yavapai College into tomorrow, next week and the years to follow …  Wherever your journey takes you, be it onto a four-year university, embarking into a chosen career, outreaching into your community or striving to help others obtain their dreams, I know you will be successful.”

Speaking at her first Commencement as YC president, Dr. Lisa Rhine shared inspiring stories of student success. They included 15-year-old Isaac Bean who completed a certificate in Culinary Arts Fundamentals; 83-year-old Jerome Mullen, an Enology certificate earner; and Arizona State University-bound Kevin Van Aken. A Mingus Union High School senior and early-college enroller, Van Aken earned an Automotive Technician Certificate at YC and is headed to ASU’s highly competitive college of engineering.

Rhine also gave shoutouts to double-degree earner Dustin Chambliss, a battalion chief with the Verde Valley Fire District; popular Learning Center tutor, Manu Hailame; and graduating triplets  Elyssa, Emily and Erin Cline.

Rhine invoked the power of dreams with the YC Verde Valley graduates saying, “In dreams, we plant the seeds of our future. Dreams motivate and inspire. They cause us to persevere under difficult circumstances, and they create a focus in our lives. Dreams matter – for students and for the college.”

“To the hundreds of dreamers here today, the college salutes you and wants you to know that Yavapai College has been blessed by your presence and engagement with us and we are humbled and proud to be a part of your personal story,” Dr. Rhine said.

Rhine joined YC Faculty Senate President Dr. Matt Pearcy during Commencement in presenting Faculty Emeritus awards to retired Humanities Professor Paul Ewing and Retired Math Professor Diana Dwan.