NASL Grads Go Forth at May 25 Joint Commencement

Last Updated : 5/27/2011 10:22:47 AM

NASL grads go forth at May 25 joint commencement

NAS LEMOORE (May 25, 2011) -- Navy Counselor 1st Class Toni Debem (left) and Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Joyce Hansen look over their introduction cards before Navy College graduation May 25 at Naval Air Station Lemoore.  The two shipmates/schoolmates who earned their bachelor’s of arts degrees now plan to pursue their master’s degrees.  (Photo by Melinda Larson)

By Melinda Larson

Ninety-five college graduates donned caps and gowns May 25 to receive their diplomas during a joint commencement ceremony at the NAS Lemoore base theater. 

West Hills College, Navy College, Embry-Riddle University, Columbia College, and Brandman University (part of the Chapman University system) are participating schools at the installation serving active-duty Navy members and their families.  Navy College partners with the higher learning institutions in order to offer quality, convenient educational opportunities.

"Twenty percent of the Navy's work force will take advantage of educational opportunities.  Partnering with military-friendly schools is critical to our members achieving their educational goals," said Dr. Mary Redd-Clary, director, Navy Voluntary Education Program Center for Personal and Professional Development who attended the graduation to hand out diplomas to Navy College graduates.

Two graduates who received their bachelor's degrees began school together in 2008 when they were both stationed with Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 2.  The pair has shared the journey of juggling their multiple roles of wife, mom, sailor and student.

"The hardest aspect of going back to school is the balance of time between work, family and school, but it is 100 percent worth it. I am most proud to show my kids how hard I worked and the importance of education," said NAS Lemoore career counselor Navy Counselor 1st Class Toni Debem who earned her bachelor of arts in organizational leadership from Brandman University.

Debem, a mother to five kids ages eight-months to 15, credits her study buddy, Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Joyce Hansen, for making it easier to achieve her goals.

"We're stationed in Lemoore together, go to school together and now we've graduated together.  She cheered me up when I got down about school and I tried to do the same for her," Debem added.

Hansen, who earned her bachelor of arts in social science from Brandman University, said she's enjoyed the educational journey that began when the two were on deployment aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72).

"We were deployed as first classes and we talked about not wanting to retire without a degree. Then it just came to us we should really go into psychology because it seemed we had the talent it took for counseling people since we were talking to our Sailors a lot ," said Hansen, now a manpower coordinator at Fleet Readiness Center-West.

The duo plan to pursue their master's degrees in psychology, marriage and family therapy but not before taking next semester off.

"I'll spend the summer with my kids and not have to do homework but it's been a wonderful experience and I'm so happy today is finally here," Hansen added.

Keynote speaker Capt. James Knapp, commanding officer NAS Lemoore said he was in awe of all the students who made it to graduation day.

"This endeavor boils down to years and years of hard work. It's not easy, but you did it between permanent change of station moves, deployments, babies, life and work.  It's an amazing accomplishment that you should cherish. You should be really, really proud of yourselves," said Knapp, a graduate of Texas A&M and the Naval War College.

Although the graduates earned their degrees from different colleges and universities, they were unified in graduation as the ceremony concluded with the traditional movement of their tassels from the right to the left side of their caps. 

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