The next generation of Yavapai College graduates turned their eyes to the future on Saturday, in two Verde Valley ceremonies honoring their achievements, celebrating their resilience and offering some parting words of wisdom for the adventures that lie ahead.

“What a great accomplishment today for you, your families and loved ones,” Keynote speaker Dr. Jack Dillenberg said. The Mayor of Jerome and former Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services urged the Class of 2022 to pursue their passions, take compassionate leadership roles in their communities and value integrity above all. “No matter how good your knowledge or skills, nothing will define you, and affect the success of your career and your relationships more than your integrity,” he said.

Yavapai College held three Spring commencement ceremonies over the weekend for the hundred-plus graduates who completed their degree or certificate programs in the Fall 2021 or Spring 2022 semesters or are on-track for a summer graduation. The College offered two Verde Valley ceremonies, at 9 a.m. and noon on Saturday, May 7, at the Sedona Performing Arts Center.

The Verde ceremonies were anchored by the inspiring story of Nursing School graduate Jennifer Bergstad, R.N. A high school drop-out and teen mom, Bergstad turned her life around in a stellar academic career that included a 2021 All Arizona Academic Award, membership in the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and a position as one of YC’s Students of Leadership. “As my kids got older, I realized that helping people was my passion, and my sister inspired me to pursue nursing.” Bergstad said. “To be honest, I never really thought I would get there, but I had a community behind me pushing me forward.”

She praised her fellow graduates for their perseverance during the COVID-19 lockdowns. “We were learning alongside our facility as we all navigated how to do College during a Pandemic. I am not going to sugar coat it – it was NOT easy! But despite all the challenges, the College continued classes and got creative. Who knew you could practice IVs on Bananas?”

Six hundred sixty-eight Yavapai College students graduated this Spring, earning a combined 916 degrees and certificates. One hundred forty-two of those students (21%) hailed from the Verde area. The weekend’s ceremonies included another 465 students, who completed their 571 degrees and certificate programs last fall. Students as young as fifteen and as old as seventy-two earned degrees or certificates from Yavapai College this past term, and Bergstad urged all of them to remember their unique pedigree as the class that persevered through the lockdown.

“We are all here today because of our will to succeed, our drive to better our lives and to grow as adults,” she said. “I commend you all for pushing forward despite the Pandemic. Your resilience is remarkable. As we all move forward in our lives, whether it is to our new careers or continue our education, remember what you have learned here during this time. You are strong, you can overcome many obstacles and even when the world stops you can continue!”

Yavapai College President Dr. Lisa Rhine echoed the theme of success and perseverance. “There isn’t any other day that is more special, more exhilarating or more fulfilling than Commencement Day,” she told the graduates. “This day is all about you and dreams realized. Never let it be said that dreaming is a waste of one’s time. For dreams are our realities in waiting. In dreams, we plant the seeds of our future.”

Yavapai College operates six campuses and centers throughout Yavapai County and offers over one hundred degrees and certificates, student and community services, and cultural events and activities. To learn more, visit