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Nevada State graduates first class as a university

Updated May 4, 2024 - 8:57 pm

A medical professional hoping to honor her grandmother’s legacy, a first-generation college graduate and a military veteran following in his mother’s footsteps were among the hundreds of students who comprised Nevada State University’s class of 2024.

Smiles abounded and cheers erupted from the stands of the Thomas &Mack Center Saturday as the minted graduates made their way into their arena seats for the long-awaited day.

“It means just the end of a long and painstaking journey,” said communications graduate Daniel Sanchez shortly before the ceremony.

Sanchez said it took him six years to complete his degree. “Honestly, there were times where I didn’t really think I would make it this far,” he said.

After a few weeks vacation, he said, he will hit the job market with the ultimate goal of working for the Las Vegas-based UFC.

But regardless of where he lands, he said, no one will be able to strip away the lessons he learned in school.

“Higher education is honestly a blessing,” he said.

University’s first graduation

The special day also marked a graduation of sorts for Nevada State, which officially changed its designation from a college to a university, a development that took legislative change and the approval of the Nevada System of Higher Education in 2023, remarked DeRionne Pollard, the university’s president.

Saturday’s ceremony marked the university’s first graduation under its new designation.

A total of 822 students — their ages ranging from 20 to 66 — graduated, with the nursing program graduating the most people followed by the liberal arts, sciences and business departments, according to the university.

Wearing their best clothes, the lively crowd of graduates and their loved ones arrived at the arena in the morning hours and congregated outside for hugs and conversation.

Inspired by family

Paranya Saehoon, a nursing school graduate, waited for her friend near a large “NEVADA STATE UNIVERSITY” sign, where the new professionals posed for photos.

Saehoon, a Chicago native, relocated to Southern Nevada where she lived with her grandparents.

A job at a home care facility for the mentally disabled elderly inspired Saehoon to pursue a medical degree.

“I realized at that point that I wanted to do medicine and wanted to take care of patients and the elderly,” she said.

While her grandparents have since passed away, she said, her grandmother was instrumental in her path.

“My grandma was a nurse also and she also inspired me to do this, so this is also for her as well as for me,” she said.

Saehoon has a job lined up at Henderson Hospital and hopes to further her education and possibly pursue a career in neurology or oncology.

“It means everything to me,” she said about graduating. “It’s been a long journey. I’m extremely ecstatic.”

Isabel Rueda’s parents did not get an education past elementary school in their native Mexico, making the communications student’s graduation a “big step for our family.”

“My family is really proud of me,” she said. “My parents are pretty proud; they didn’t have the opportunity.”

Chris Wallace, who traveled the world as a Navy serviceman, said he is passionate about history, for which he earned a degree he’d been working on since 2007. “It’s been a long time coming,” he said.

“I love history,” he continued. “Putting the story in history makes my day.”

Wallace’s mother, who attended the graduation along with his wife, his young daughter, and his best friend, has the same degree and teaches the subject.

“To me it’s a breath of fresh air,” he said when asked if he’ll miss going to school. “No more homework, I get my weekends and evenings back, and more family time.”

Wallace was eager for his daughter to see him make the proud walk and get his diploma.

“She’s excited,” he said. “She’s like, ‘I graduated kindergarten. Where you at, dad?’ ”

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com.

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