WNC Graduates Told to ‘Be Proud, Go to Next Level’

May 23, 2023

Nursing graduates, from left, Nichole Vonjaeger, Ashley DeVault and Taylor O'daye pose for photos before the start of the Western Nevada College commencement ceremony Monday in Carson City.

Nursing graduates, from left, Nichole Vonjaeger, Ashley DeVault and Taylor O'daye pose for photos before the start of the Western Nevada College commencement ceremony Monday in Carson City.

Western Nevada College’s return to a traditional commencement ceremony on Monday in Marv Teixeira Pavilion brought back familiar and wonderful traditions, providing graduates with the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments with family and friends. The soothing sounds from the Sierra Highlanders’ bagpipes filled the arena. Speakers provided motivational messages from and their hearts and personal experiences. Performing arts students gracefully danced across the stage to the music of “Seize the Day” from the musical “Newsies.” The atmosphere was electric.

General BerryNo one objected that the notorious Washoe Zephyr winds were missing during the two-hour ceremony, leaving the conditions ideal to send off WNC’s Class of 2023 to pursue bachelor’s and master’s degrees and better-paying jobs.

“I really liked the bagpipes,” said Aurora Fischer, who earned an Associate of Science degree and plans to continue her education at either WNC or Truckee Meadows Community College. “The speakers were all really good, and the major general was great. “

Charged with firing up the Class of 2023 before receiving its degrees was none other than Major General Ondra Berry, the Nevada State Adjutant


Major General Ondra Berry speaks to WNC grads.

General from the Nevada National Guard. He resoundingly succeeded, drawing repeated cheers from the graduates with his inspiring words, and a “Wow” from WNC President Dr. J. Kyle Dalpe when he concluded his motivational message.

“We are going to get excited today,” Berry began. “You should feel nothing but pride and joy. Be proud, stand tall and hoot and holler. The tassel was worth the hassle!

“Go out and get that job, go out and get that opportunity and elevate your life. People will tell you can’t do something, and I’m here to tell you that you can! When you want to give up and people want to push you out of the arena, stay in the arena. WNC has prepared you to go into the arena, to go to the next level. You are ready!”
Berry went on to encourage the grads to applaud faculty members in attendance for giving them the knowledge to better their lives, and to applaud their family members for telling them that they could accomplish their degrees.

Bevans son graduationAmong a trio of additional speakers was student government president Suzanna Stankute, who graduated with an Associate of Arts degree.

“Our professors believed in us when we doubted ourselves,” she said. “Remember, each and every one of us has the potential to make a difference.”

Five of  13 Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents were on hand to congratulate the Class of 2023, which included 500 graduates: Jeffrey Downs, a mathematics professor and former vice president at WNC who provided a message from the regents; Carol Del Carlo, Vice Chair Joseph Arrascada, Laura Perkins and Heather Brown.

President Dalpe shared that grads ranged from 16 to 65 years old, they hailed from nine states besides Nevada, and the Class of 2023 was composed of high school students, veterans and first-generation students.

During a heartwarming moment, WNC Professor of Psychology Dr. Rebecca Bevans presented her son, Alexander, with his Associate of Science and Associate of Business degrees. 

Professor Dr. Rebecca Bevans and son, Alexander.

The Class of 2023 also provided a remarkable story of perseverance as Aaron Ross, who was born blind, earned his Associate of Arts degree. Ross began the pursuit of his degree in 2008 and because of his day job and his needs for each class, the “greatest achievement of his life” became a long-term commitment.

The bagpipes serenaded the grads one more time as they departed the pavilion with their degrees in hand to celebrate further with elated and proud family members and friends.

Graduation attendees

Friends and family members cheer for graduates during the Western Nevada College commencement ceremony on Monday in Carson City.