Friday, April 18, 2014

Rio 2014 Graduation Speakers Inspire

Congratulations to Kaisi Balmer, Patrick Valenzuela, Jr. and Gloria Bauerle-- Rio Salado College 2014 graduation speakers. You'll hear more about their accomplishments during the May 6 Commencement and May 13 HSE Graduation ceremonies. Here’s a glimpse into their extraordinary lives.

For Kaisi Balmer, graduation means a celebration of self and spirit. She came to Rio Salado College four years ago, on the recommendation of a friend. At the time, Balmer was homeless, jobless, addicted to drugs, and disconnected from family and friends. Thanks to faith, determination and the assistance of an academic advisor, Balmer mapped out a plan to get back on track in pursuit of her true dream: becoming a doctor.

Balmer will receive her Associate in Arts diploma at commencement and plans on continuing her studies this fall at Arizona State University to earn a degree in global health, and ultimately become a Missionary family practitioner. “When life happens, people may give up on their goals, dreams, purpose, and even themselves,” Balmer said. “Then along comes hope in the shape of a person, or opportunity. Take it. You have nothing to lose.”

Patrick Valenzuela, Jr. had three goals in life when he left high school 10 years ago: graduate college, join the U.S. Navy, and become a police officer. He put college on the back burner to join the Navy, and upon completion of his service, was hired as a police officer in the city of Glendale. At 22, he had accomplished two of his three goals. Then life happened. Valenzuela got married, had three daughters, and even continued watching over his younger siblings when his father was deployed to Afghanistan.

Valenzuela credits his children with helping him reach that third goal. “I wanted to be a role model for them and to prove that as long as you persevere, are patient, and put in the work, you can succeed,” he said. Valenzuela will accept his associate degree in law enforcement technology diploma during commencement. He plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies at Northern Arizona University.

Gloria Bauerle had an unstable and traumatic childhood but found the strength and courage to break free from her past and help others coping with abuse as a community organizer and mentor. She has also had her share of adversity as an adult. In June, after mourning the loss of her son, she decided it was time to move forward once again--starting with an education. She successfully completed Rio’s High School Equivalency (HSE) Preparation  program and passed her GED test. Now she’s preparing to take the next step as a college student at Rio. Bauerle says she has many dreams she wants to pursue, including a degree in communications and to serve as a life coach.

“I have come to understand that just when I think I might have figured something out a whole new world of possibilities opens up. Every dream has mountains and waste lands, but every dream also has a promised land and if we do not give up and lose heart in the waste lands we will be better because of them and the lessons we learn while we are there become the stepping stones to our dreams being realized.” -- Gloria Bauerle

We look forward to celebrating the accomplishments of all Rio Salado College students at the upcoming commencement and HSE graduation ceremonies.

Visit Rio Commencement and Rio HSE Graduation web pages for more details about attending these special events.

Rio Commencement
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Comerica Theatre
400 W. Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ 85003
(the corner of 4th Ave. & Washington St.)

Rio HSE Graduation
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Comerica Theatre
400 W. Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ 85003
(the corner of 4th Ave. & Washington St.)
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