Monday, May 11, 2009

2009 Graduates Inspire with Determination, Patience

Alana Parker and Loretta Price couldn’t be more different, and yet more similar. One is a mother. One is a grandmother. One is starting her career. The other is supplementing an already diverse work history. Both are commencement speakers at Friday’s Rio Salado College graduation ceremony. And both have overcome tough individual challenges to reach this goal.

Parker, whose life-long dream is to become a nurse, is graduating with an Associate in Applied Science in Nursing degree.

“Earning my degree has empowered me,” said Parker, who began taking classes in 2001. “I am excited to help improve the quality healthcare offered to individuals in my community.”

While working towards her degree, Parker juggled school, a job, and the day to day family responsibilities that come with having a husband and two young sons. Soon, however, the stress started building up.

“I faced massive stress during the first two blocks of my program,” Parker said. “I would sit in the testing center, sweating bullets, and having heart palpitations. Everything I studied would blur in my head.”

Parker reached out to Melanie Abts, Rio Salado counseling faculty member, for support.

“Melanie taught me how to relieve my stress using different methods of relaxation,” Parker said. “She helped me understand my studying method, and how to prepare and minimize test anxiety.”

Having conquered stress, Parker then found herself dealing with self-confidence issues.

“At times I would feel as though I couldn't achieve my goal,” said Parker. “I would look at others in my class and feel so under qualified due to my lack of work and educational experience. I realized halfway into the program that I could achieve anything I put my mind to.”

That same determination is a trait also exhibited by Loretta Price, who is earning an Associate in Arts degree in Public Administration.

In 1976, Price immigrated to the United States from South Africa, where she grew up during the apartheid years.

“A strong work ethic and desire to achieve in life were instilled in my family,” Price recalled. “But life in South Africa was actually much simpler and less commercial.”

In this country, Price worked for a car rental company for many years before getting a recruiter position with Maricopa County.

There she joined the Maricopa County Cohort, a program where county employees attended onsite classes to earn certificates or degrees through Rio Salado College.

“I was apprehensive because this was my first exposure to any American school,” Price said. “My educational experience in South Africa was high school and three months of college.”

Price found the cohort experience beneficial thanks to the camaraderie between members. “We formed a bond and would encourage each other to come to class after a tough day at work,” she said.”

Price’s cohort completed their certificate program in 2006, and decided to continue with the degree program. When the cohort ended in 2008, Price forged ahead, taking online classes on her own to complete her degree.

“I learned it’s never too late to start your education,” said Price. “Rio Salado took away all the obstacles and made getting an education very easy.”

Rio Salado’s commencement ceremony takes place Friday, May 15, at 7 p.m. at the Orpheum Theatre, 203 West Adams Street, in downtown Phoenix. For more information visit