College of the Mainland held commencement ceremonies Saturday, May 12 to recognize 780 students – the largest graduating class in school history- who received more than 809 awards.

Smiles, flowers and balloons were plentiful at Abundant Life Center in La Marque where commencement ceremonies were held. The morning ceremony was for graduates receiving Associate in Science degrees, certificates and Texas Certificate of High School Equivalency. The afternoon ceremony recognized those receiving degrees in Associate of Science, Associate of Arts and Associate of Arts in Teaching.

“We know what an incredible day this is for you. You have sacrificed money, sleep and time with your family and friends to achieve your goals,” Dr. Warren Nichols, president of College of the Mainland, told the graduates. “In case you haven’t figured it out yet, it was all worth it. Your success and accomplishments are from your hard work, helped by the support of your family and friends.”

Rose Pipkin, who completed the pharmacy tech program, shared her story during the morning ceremony of being a working mother who at age 28 decided to return to school. Last year, Pipkin received an Associate in General Studies.

Working as an administrative assistant in the Office of Veterans Success at the college, Pipkin stressed that it took a village in order for her to complete her studies. She faced the deaths of two close family members and missed many days of school but continued.

“No matter what life throws at you, you have to get back up and keep fighting,” she said to a loud applause.

In the afternoon, Collegiate High School student Maizie Fernandes served as a commencement speaker. Collegiate High School students received associate degrees Saturday and will be awarded high school diplomas later this month.

“If I’ve learned anything, it’s that overcoming obstacles is a part of life regardless of experience,” said Fernandes, who is the first in her family to receive a college degree and will be the first to receive a high school diploma when she graduates as Valedictorian from Abundant Life Christian School.  

Fernandes, who will further her education at the University of Texas at Austin, tearfully thanked her parents for their sacrifice in order for her brother and her to have a better life after obtaining religious asylum in the United States.

Karen Kupsa, an industrial careers instructor, was recognized as teacher of the year among the technical staff. Beth Hammett was named teacher of the year among the general education faculty and also was named the Online Instructor of the Year. The teachers of the year were selected following voting by students.  

Two of those participating in graduation ceremonies Saturday also took part last year and both are 76 years old. Madeline Adams graduated with an Associate in Criminal Justice and last year earned an Associate in General Studies. Also, Stanley Clayton received his Networking Fundamentals Occupational Skills certificate on Saturday and last year received a networking certificate.