Hundreds of students, family, and well-wishers came to Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin on Saturday as the school held the fall commencement. Cesar Espinosa of Cookeville was named Outstanding Fall Graduate at the ceremony. Faculty nominators cited his dedication in tutoring fellow students in math and science as one reason for the award. Leukemia and three subsequent bouts of serious E. coli infections has given Espinosa quite a bit of insight into the world of medicine. Despite the challenges, he has maintained a near perfect GPA while attending Vol State at the Cookeville Higher Education Campus (CHEC). Now recovered, he wants to be one of the health care workers making a difference.
“I had this urge to be a nurse, like all of those who helped me,” he said. “I want to get to know my patients and let them know I’ve been in their shoes.” And it wasn’t just his own illness that provided the insight. “I had a younger cousin who also had leukemia. I saw the care and patience those nurses had with my six-year old cousin. That opened my eyes to the opportunity.”
Espinosa is applying to the Tennessee Tech University Nursing Program. He hopes one day to work in pediatric oncology.
There were 801 students eligible to graduate this year. They represent 24 different countries of birth. Thirty-eight of the graduates are military veterans. There are 302 TN Promise students graduating this fall.
Bill Sinks gave the Alumni Association welcome. Kenyatta Lovett, executive director of the educational nonprofit Complete Tennessee, gave the commencement address.
“This is a worthy commitment that you have made and a great accomplishment for you. It matters that you take the next step forward on your path. You learned resilience when you filled out that first college paperwork and when you took that first college class. You had resilience to take that first exam,” Lovett said. “Resiliency can be contagious. I ask that you reach out to the students you know who have not completed their degree to encourage them to come back.”
For more pictures from graduation visit www.facebook.com/volstate.