Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Student Spotlight: 2016 Commencement Speakers

photos of Cristales and Hammerle

Rio Salado College’s 2016 commencement ceremony takes place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, at the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix. The two student’s chosen to speak at the event are Elizabeth Cristales and Lorna Ann Hammerle.

image of Elizabeth CristalesCristales graduated from high school in 2001 in Florida, and moved to California to pursue a nursing degree. She successfully completed her nursing program requirements, but then hit a roadblock.

“Because of financial difficulties, I was unable to continue my education,” Cristales said.

Several years later, she found herself in Arizona working in the legal industry, and realized that this was her true calling. But to further her career, Cristales knew she would have to finish her college degree.

“I enrolled in the paralegal program at Rio Salado, and for the past 3 years, I've worked full time while taking classes,” Cristales said.

Even with the support of family and friends, she faced challenges in realizing her dream.
“There were several times where I doubted my own capabilities and where the stress was too much,” Cristales said. “I had to find strength within myself to keep going. It took a lot of planning and a lot of sacrifice but I pushed myself, and I am extremely proud for that.”

Cristales is graduating with an associate degree in paralegal.

“Obtaining my degree at Rio Salado has brought me extreme joy and a proud sense of accomplishment,” she said. “It has also brought thoughts about furthering my career and educational goals. I am now considering the possibility of obtaining a bachelor’s degree and going to law school in the future.”

Cristales has already seen her hard work pay off.
“Being in the paralegal program has already helped me advance my career,” Cristales said. “I am now a senior legal administrative assistant for a large corporation in Scottsdale. With my degree, I plan on advancing my position within the company as a corporate paralegal.”

With her educational and career success, Cristales realizes that more opportunities await.

“Now that I'm aware of my own potential, I know that I can accomplish whatever goals I set for myself, whether they be big or small.”

image of Lorna Ann HammerleLorna Ann Hammerle has spent 10 years trying to complete her college degree. She tried many schools and community college, but nothing stuck. She didn’t know what career to pursue, and grew frustrated. Then she and her boyfriend welcomed a son, and that was just what she needed to finish what she started.

“My son was my main motivation,” Hammerle said. “Over the last year, there were many nights I wanted to throw in the towel and give up. But then I would remember who was watching - my son. He has kept me focused.”

Hammerle, who is completing a certificate and associate degree in general business, also credits her family for being supportive and offering encouragement.

“When I told my mom about my plans at Rio Salado, she offered to babysit every night if that’s what it took for me to finish my classes,” Hammerle said. “She has always been my rock and my backbone. She believed in me when no one else did.”

Her boyfriend also stepped up as chief motivator.

“He took no excuses,” Hammerle said. “He would keep our son occupied so I could focus on my studies. When I tried to push off my homework, he was there making sure I would get it done.”

Hammerle also credits Rio Salado College for being the right fit, the one college that helped her realize her educational goals.
“I have never met a better more helpful staff in my entire 10 years of trying to complete a college degree,” Hammerle said. “Rio Salado has been nothing short of amazing, from the instructors to my advisor, Jessica, who was always there to guide me in the right direction.”
Hammerle’s future plans include earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degree.

“Without Rio Salado, I doubt I would have ever finished college,” she said. “Rio gave me the drive and push to show my son that anything is possible.”

Thanks to Speaker Candidates!
Image of student speaker candidates
Rio Salado Student Speaker Candidates
Rio Salado College would like to thank all the students who applied to be commencement speakers: Kate Beale, Colleen B. Koblinski, Charity McDaniel-Little, Kari Pollock, Amber Roberson and Vanessa Williams. Congratulations! We look forward to celebrating your success at this year’s commencement ceremony and wish you well in your future endeavors.

We encourage you to share your student graduation stories and photos using #RioGrad!

By Rio Salado Communications Coordinator Mira Radovich