Las Vegas Sun

September 15, 2019

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Sun editorial:

Optimism springs eternal: Area graduates give us faith in the future


Steve Marcus

Graduates celebrate during UNLV commencement at the Thomas & Mack Center Saturday, May 18, 2019. Graduates, about 3,000, ranged in age from 18 to 71 and came from across the U.S. and from 50 foreign countries.

Spring in Las Vegas may not bring a break from months of icy weather, as it does in some places, but it does provide an annual spirit booster of another type.

Every year, college commencement season offers stories of students who overcome major challenges, made significant sacrifices, exhibited exceptional citizenship and achieved at the highest levels in obtaining their degrees.

This year was no exception. At UNLV, the College of Southern Nevada and Nevada State College, students distinguished themselves through their hard work, dedication and desire to elevate themselves academically. Their stories are an inspiration to all of us. Today we spotlight a few of this year’s outstanding graduates:

• Rebecca Xinke Cao graduated from UNLV with bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering and computer science, becoming the first in her family to graduate from college. The Clark High School product paid her own way through school while holding down a number of jobs, including teaching physics at UNLV, working in the College of Engineering’s Quorum lab and interning at Southwest Gas. She also conducted robotics research as a National Science Foundation-funded fellow.

• Karessa Royce’s path to her hospitality management degree at UNLV took a traumatic turn when she was badly wounded during the Oct. 1 shooting, suffering a collapsed lung and a broken collarbone and shoulder. She bounced back to earn her degree and become a voice of healing and transformation, helping develop safety procedures and policies for the new Hospitality Hall and delivering a TEDx presentation on post-traumatic growth.

• Nilofar Ghyasi was born in Afghanistan during the war against Russia and moved to the U.S. as a refugee at age 15. This month, she graduated from Nevada State College with a bachelor’s degree in nursing alongside her daughters, Saddia, who also received a nursing degree, and Haddia, who received a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

• Keely Biggs held up to four jobs at times to pay for her bills and tuition en route to her bachelor’s degree in biology at Nevada State College. A first-generation college student, she also managed to conduct research projects in Nevada, Costa Rica and Mexico, and participate in an NSC mission trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, to help create a science center and provide a medical clinic to a remote village.

• Andrew Boswell became the first college graduate in his family when he earned his English degree at CSN. In addition to holding two jobs while attending school, Boswell volunteered at Opportunity Village.

• Saruna Ghimire’s doctoral research led her to co-lead a project to benefit hundreds of girls in her home country of Nepal by educating them about menstrual hygiene and providing sanitary products. She graduated with a 4.0 grade-point average and a Ph.D. in public health after also serving in student government and mentoring both undergraduate and graduate students.

• Ashley Schobert graduated with two majors and two minors from UNLV while also serving as the captain of the elite Rebel Girls dance team. She was one of five students chosen for a summer internship program at the Brookings Institution, a progressive think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C., where she’ll be working with experts on evidence-based policies to strengthen America’s middle class. After that, she plans to study law at UNLV.

With UNLV conferring degrees to more than 3,000 graduates, CSN to a school-record 3,600-plus and NSC to a record 600-plus, stories like these abounded.

There’s not nearly enough space here to spotlight all of this year’s outstanding graduates. So to all of them, here’s a pat on the back and best wishes as they take their next steps.