Glendale Community College was never part of her higher-education plan, Associated Students President Janet Shamilian told her fellow graduates Friday.
She had always dreamed of attending UCLA and enrolled at the community college only after being rejected by her first choice.
"I promised myself all along that I would make my experience here the absolute best," Shamilian said. "For this reason I got involved in student government my first semester because I felt I could make a significant impact on this school."
But two years later, with her associate's degree in one hand and acceptance letter from USC in the other, Shamilian said she is thankful she landed where she did.
"Enrolling at GCC allowed me to soon realize that I am living the better dream," Shamilian said.
Glendale Community College handed out associate's degrees and certificates to 728 students at the commencement event that drew a packed crowd to Sartoris Field. The graduates ranged in age from 18 to 71 years old, said President/Supt. Dawn Lindsay. The average grade-point average for the Class of 2011 was 3.08, with 15 students earning 4.0s.
Among the areas of study for which students received certificates of completion were flight attendant, machinist, restaurant management, welding and specialist in alcohol/drug studies.
The college also awarded an honorary degree to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), who once taught at the school.
As they prepared to take the stage, graduates said they were relieved to have the course work and exams behind them.
"It has been the longest two years of my life," said nursing graduate Nicholas Esqueda. "I am extremely happy with Glendale Community College and the program they put out, and all the instructors as well. They are just phenomenal ladies and gentlemen."
Business student Pilar Fontenla said her college graduation was sweeter than her high school graduation because she had to struggle harder to get there.
Addressing the graduates during the ceremony, Lindsay said the first steps to success are often the most difficult, but added that doors previously closed will now open because of the hard work invested at Glendale Community College.
"Tonight marks the end of your educational journey you have chosen to take with us, but it is really a beginning," Lindsay said.
"As you leave this evening, rest assured life has much to offer. You have already demonstrated your ability to determine a goal, work for that goal and most importantly, attain that goal."