Media Contact: Debra Dennis;
For immediate release — May 3, 2023
(GARLAND, Texas) — This year’s graduation promises to be one of many firsts for Dallas College.
Dallas College is proud to showcase its first class of future teachers who are graduating from the School of Education with undergraduate degrees in Early Childhood Education and Teaching.
These graduates are part of the inaugural early childhood baccalaureate program set up to launch quality teachers into the workforce. Bachelor’s degrees will be conferred on 125 future teachers. Dallas College now offers bachelor’s degrees in education.
This class — a mix of associate degree earners and bachelor’s degree graduates — garnered nearly $237,000 in scholarships; 33% are first-generation college graduates; 85% identify as a minority; and 71% are female.
“This is a moment to congratulate and celebrate the remarkable achievements of our graduates,” said Dallas College Chancellor Justin Lonon. “Their hard work and perseverance are a testament to what can be accomplished. Many of our students are the first in their families to attend college. They are paving the way — not just for themselves — but for their siblings and parents and neighbors. Their success will change lives for generations.”
Six students have been chosen to share their experiences, challenges, impediments and triumphs. They will tell their fellow classmates about fortitude, passion and overcoming adversity. For the first time, a high school student — a graduate of the well-regarded Early College High School (ECHS) program — will be among the speakers.
Dallas College’s six in-person ceremonies will take place Thursday, May 11, through Saturday, May 13, at the Curtis Culwell Center, 4999 Naaman Forest Blvd. in Garland.
This year’s speakers are:
Daisy Donjuan knows a lot about beating the odds. A first-generation college student with little assistance from her family, she supported herself with the help of mentors and advisors and won the prestigious Erin Kramp Scholarship that not only kept her in school when she was low on funds but will also pay her fees and tuition when she transfers to Austin College. Donjuan is a paralegal student who dreams of becoming a lawyer. She has worked for a personal injury law firm and a firm that specializes in immigration law.
“I believe in taking chances in life. We go through seasons, hard times and good times and beautiful times, but don’t let anything discourage you,” said Donjuan. She has become an unofficial ambassador for Dallas College — touting its resources and pushing others to aspire for a better future. A member of the state Student Advisory Board for Community Colleges, she recently authored an opinion piece in the Dallas Morning News touting the wraparound services available to students like her.
“I come from a low-income family. I didn’t have a support system. I had to look for it, and I found it at Dallas College. There are so many opportunities. Just try. Just apply. Just ask questions. I could have disqualified myself, but I’m so glad I didn’t,” Donjuan said.
She is using her story of triumph to encourage others to apply at one of Dallas College’s seven campuses.
“Let’s all take advantage. Let’s all play our part. The goal is to become an ally,” said Donjuan. She started working as a tour guide for El Centro but learned as much as she taught. “I care about our students. I even recruited a mom who came with her daughter and didn’t know anything about Dallas College. I want to tell everybody that there are opportunities and there are people who will support you. This sparks a fire in me. When I see a need, I help. When I see injustice, I get to work.”
Pricila Cano Padron
Pricila Cano Padron
Pricila Cano Padron, 22, is making history as one of the first students to graduate from Dallas College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Early Childhood Education. She has already secured a job teaching fourth grade in Richardson Independent School District, the same district she attended. Cano Padron traces her reading acumen to her grade school years, when her mother became ill. Cano Padron became her mother’s caretaker and translator, assisting medical workers charged with her mother’s care.
“I would go home and Google medical terms and try to explain things to her,” Cano Padron said. “I translated for her doctors.” Currently a student teacher, she long knew she wanted to be in the classroom. Next fall, she will teach reading to fourth graders — a challenge she embraces.
“Growing up, my teachers supported me and helped to grow my interest in reading. I want to give the same support I received.“
Her story, she said, offers a sound counter argument to any stigma attached to community colleges.
“Community college has been the best experience. I have accomplished so many things because of my amazing professors. They offered so much support for students. They are so kind and helpful that being here feels like home,” said Cano Padron, adding that Dallas College’s inaugural teaching program will go far in pushing quality educators into the workforce.
Her advice to her fellow classmates is this: “Say yes.”
“Say yes to that internship. Say yes to that job offer. Say yes to that opportunity. You are being offered these chances for a reason. You are creating your own future.”
Taylor Adams, a student in the Lancaster Early College program at Cedar Valley, is the first ECHS student to speak at a Dallas College graduation. Adams, 17, credits her success to her mentors as well as the ECHS program itself, saying it provided her with the tools she needed to receive both a high school diploma and an associate degree.
She followed in the footsteps of two older cousins who were successful ECHS students.
“I want to bring hope to others,” she said. During her first year, she watched helplessly as her father endured but recovered from a heart attack. “My father is doing better,” Adams said, adding that his recovery showed her the possibility of overcoming challenges.
Described by her advisors as studious and driven, Adams, a Seeds Scholar, was selected last year to complete an economics course at Yale University, where she met students from other parts of the country and visited the Federal Reserve Bank in New York.
Adams said that she may consider returning to Yale for post-graduate studies, but her immediate plans are to enroll in Texas A&M and major in biochemistry. The idea of becoming a doctor and helping others is appealing, she said.
“I like health sciences. I like the idea of biotechnology, so I’m debating with myself,” Adams said. “I love helping people. Community service has always been a passion.”
She hopes to honor her fellow graduates with a speech that will keep them on a positive path where they weigh the consequences of each decision they make.
“I’m super happy for the opportunity to give this speech and acknowledge that we all face adversity,” she said. “I want my classmates to reflect on what they have done and to be excited about their next moves.”
At 36, Robert Price is a typical community college student, although he admits to being a bit uneasy around some of his younger classmates. A lifelong learner, he started slow but moved forward with fortitude and a newly found support system.
A former warehouse worker, Price has learned to overcome limits. He started his college career at North Lake in 2005 — shortly after graduating from MacArthur High School in Irving. He wasn’t a straight-A student but took on a handful of jobs while diligently pursing his passion for computers.
His grandparents bought a Packard Bell for about $1,000, and his passion for computer programming was ignited. But his fear of succeeding made him guarded and unsure. His grandparents’ $1,000 purchase that they could ill afford turned out to be more than a gift. It piqued his interest and launched his career.
“It had 4 megabytes of RAM. I was blessed they did this,” said Price, who started his tech career as a data entry operator for Globe Life. Eventually, he honed his management and technical skills and started to move up the ranks.
“I had an opportunity and learned a role that normally requires a college degree,” he said.
But he needed to get that degree if he was going to become a software engineer — a career he had long dreamed about.
After marrying and starting a family, he tried Dallas College again — this time at its Richland Campus.
“I wasted too much time,” said Price, who is also working on a software degree at Colorado Technical College. “I plan to pursue a master’s and then go on for my doctorate. My message is not just to the graduates but to the parents. Don’t limit your potential. Don’t let obstacles block you from opportunities.”
Richard Olu Jordan
Richard Olu Jordan
Richard Olu Jordan was enrolled at Richland Campus when the pandemic struck in 2020. He hoped the isolation he felt would be temporary but instead found himself alone and in need of the interaction that college had brought.
“I felt very unsure of what the future held. I went from being engaged in class to being alone,” he said.
As the pandemic dragged on, he joined the Army National Guard and learned a skill — aircraft maintenance mechanic. The aviation specialist found camaraderie among his peers as they worked on Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters.
“I had to learn to embrace change so that I could stick through the process of getting a degree,” said Jordan, 21. “Everyone has their struggles. I was able to get out of mine when I saw this window of opportunity. This gave me a lot of clarity and perspective of what I wanted to do.”
He will tell his classmates that he has learned that it’s natural to feel uncertain or unprepared.
But embrace change because it is essential to growth, he said.
“Rather than being intimidated by these challenges, we should embrace them as opportunities,” Jordan said. “It is only by embracing change that we can unlock our full potential and create a better future for ourselves and others.”
A 2019 graduate of Berkner High School in Richardson, Jordan is already taking classes at the University of Texas at Arlington, where he is pursuing an undergraduate degree in computer science. He wants to become a software engineer.
He is still part of the Army National Guard, and every month he suits up for duty.
“It’s good to have a purpose,” he said.
Celia Hall knows what it’s like to endure mental and physical hardships. Throughout her childhood, she was physically, mentally and emotionally abused by a family member, causing her to suffer depression and anxiety. After being stalked by a classmate, she failed her first year at college and felt completely isolated as she languished in classes far from her home in Dallas.
“I didn’t have anyone to talk to. I never felt more alone. I had hit rock bottom at 19; no one really knew.“
When the pandemic struck, her isolation deepened.
Still, she fought back and found her voice, and the reluctant public speaker discovered she had a lot to say.
“This college and many administrators gave me encouragement, resources and a safe space to grow so that I could build myself and others around me up as students and as leaders of our community. I used to fear public speaking, and now I do it at least three to four times a week, and I love it,” Hall said.
“It’s amazing what happens when you start believing in yourself. I wasn’t the student, speaker or leader I am now, but I continued to work on myself and got better in helping my community,” she said. “It’s better to try something and fail than to never try at all. You don’t want a life of regrets,” said Hall, an officer in the Texas Junior College Student Government Association as well as Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.
“I want to dedicate myself to educating and fighting for others,” said Hall, who is graduating with an associate degree in public policy advocacy at Richland Campus. She plans to transfer to either Yale, Columbia, Princeton or Southern Methodist University and pursue a career with the U.S. State Department.
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