Shant Eulmessekian was embarrassed when he didn’t get into the universities he applied to after high school. And when he was told the best alternative was Glendale Community College, he saw that as a setback.
But speaking to more than 1,000 Glendale Community College graduates as this year’s recipient of the Man of Distinction Award on Wednesday, Eulmessekian told his peers not to make the same mistake.
“Understand the only way you can have a setback is if you define it as such,” he said. “I encourage you all to morph the setback, transform the setback, transfigure it. Be known as an individual that strives for good no matter the odds, the adversity.”
At the college’s commencement on Wednesday, others echoed Eulmessekian’s sentiments — Glendale Community College is a blessing in disguise that helps students accomplish their dreams.
“We are gathered here today as individuals that did swim,” Eulmessekian said. “And the current of Glendale Community College has taken us to new land and to new opportunity.”
He commended the faculty and staff, who he said are more dedicated to their students than other colleges or universities might be, and said he’s glad more students are beginning to understand the unparalleled benefit of attending a community college.
Piper Rooney, president of the academic senate, applauded the graduates for taking on more than the average student, including taking care of children, elderly family members and working 40 hours a week.
“I would like to express our admiration … and respect for the work you’ve done to arrive at this moment,” she said. “ You’ve trusted our faculty with your stories, your struggles and your goals.”
David Viar, the college’s superintendent/president, noted the youngest graduate was 19 and the oldest was 80. There were also several international students who have made Glendale Community College their stepping stone to success.
“For me, GCC is really awesome,” said Natsuki Takahashi, a 27-year-old student from Japan who decided to move to the U.S. to learn English and other languages. “I met a lot of friends here and I met a lot of great teachers here. This is my great opportunity.”
Takahashi is making the move back to Japan to work in marketing.
Jessica Coompson, a 23-year-old student from Gambia, West Africa, said Glendale Community College helped her come out of her timidness.
“My first semester was horrible because I had no friends,” said Coompson, who went on to become the vice president of activities at GCC. “I didn’t want people to go through what I went through.”
Coompson added she wants to go to law school after attending CSU Channel Islands, next year.
She said she wants others to know they should speak their voice and continue striving toward their goals.