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NOVA graduates share success stories

novanvccNorthern Virginia Community College will hold its 48th Commencement Ceremony at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 18 at the Patriot Center at George Mason University. More than 6,800 graduates are expected to be awarded associate degrees and certificates.

The commencement address will be delivered by Dr. Charles Errico, a professor of history and assistant dean for the social sciences at NOVA’s Woodbridge Campus. Each NOVA student has a unique story to tell about the journey that brought them to graduation day. Below are a few of those stories in short version. The full stories are attached.

Celi Palhua-Flores, Electrical Engineering, Annandale Campus

As an undocumented high school student born in Peru, Celi Palhua-Flores wasn’t sure what his future held after graduation. But one thing was clear – he wanted to further his education.

He got accepted to several four-year universities but couldn’t afford the out-of-state tuition. Committed to getting an education, he enrolled at Northern Virginia Community College because he knew the tuition was more affordable.

“I can’t think of a better place to have spent the last two years than NOVA,” says Palhua-Flores, 20.  On Sunday, May 18, Palhua-Flores will be awarded an associate degree in science with a specialization in electrical engineering from NOVA.

Frank Estevao Maia, Business Administration, Alexandria and Manasass campuses

When Frank Estevao Maia, 28, walks across the stage to receive his degree on Sunday, May 18 from Northern Virginia Community College, he will stand on the shoulders of many.  His family. His wife. His academic advisor and mentor. His friends.

Maia attended the Alexandria and Manassas campuses and will graduate summa cum laude with an associate of science degree in business administration. He has a 4.0 GPA and is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

“It’s overwhelming. It really is,” he says. “I had dreamed of getting an education for so long and now it is becoming a reality.”

Gabriela Guzman, General Studies, Alexandria Campus

Gabriela Guzman’s early life was rocked by instability. She was shuttled between homes, her father was deported and she became pregnant at 16.

She could have given up on herself, but she didn’t. When everyone told her to just her GED rather than go to college, she didn’t listen. On Sunday, May 18, Guzman will earn her associate of science degree in general studies from Northern Virginia Community College.

She has been accepted to transfer to George Mason University to study philosophy and law. Eventually, she wants to attend law school and become a defense attorney.



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