WNCC grad came a long way to earn her degree | NevadaAppeal.com

WNCC grad came a long way to earn her degree

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Jen Hillyar's daughters Autumn, 7, center, and Ari, 10, check out her cap and gown before Tuesday's commencement ceremonies for Western Nevada Community College.

The road to graduation has been a long one for Jen Hillyar.

Born in Austin, Texas, she lived for 18 years in Anchorage, Alaska, before moving to Carson City two years ago with her four children, ages 7, 10, 11 and 13.

Hillyar, 32, said she moved to Nevada to be nearer her sister, but a few months after her arrival, the sister moved to Florida.

Tired of lower-paying jobs and wanting to set an example for her children, the single mom enrolled at Western Nevada Community College and Tuesday picked up her Associate of Arts diploma at the Carson City Community Center.

Of the 204 graduates, Hillyar joined 110 in a sea of royal blue that paraded into the center to the strains of the Sierra Highlanders Pipe Band.

Her two younger children, Ari and Autumn, were there to cheer Mom on as she got her diploma.

“I’m just tired of doing the jobs I was doing,” she said. “I’m not a very good office manager.”

Family support was evident in the community center as cheers and whistles, even congratulatory signs greeted each student as they received their diplomas. Parents, grandparents, children and other family members took photos and clutched flowers and balloons to give to their graduates.

Mothers carrying out crying babies was a common sight, with some families taking up a whole row of seats in the center. Video feeds were available outside the auditorium and were closely watched by the mothers and some latecomers.

Commencement speaker Bret Whipple, chairman of the Board of Regents, offered three pieces of advice in his address: Never be afraid to dream, never be afraid of failure and never be afraid to ask for help.

Jessica Lujetic, who earned her associate of arts degree and certificates of achievement in criminal justice and juvenile justice, praised her professor.

“Richard Finn is the best professor there is,” she said. “He got me started.”

Lujetic will go on to UNR in the fall and plans to work in parole and probation.

Her parents, Joe and Bonnie Lujetic were there to cheer their daughter, with Dad taking lots of photos.

Hillyar studied graphic arts and would like to be a fashion designer. To that end, she will also enter the UNR in the fall.

“I’m probably going to get an English degree,” she said. “It’s going to be hard to leave WNCC. I wish it were a four-year school.”

It has also been her place of employment for the last year, working as a teaching assistant in the psychology department. Before that, she was an office manager.

Graduation day in Fallon was Monday, 393 students in both schools received associate degrees and certificates of achievement.

Graduates included teens and grandparents, singles and parents, first-time job seekers and career professionals. The oldest graduate was 70-year-old Patricia Bauer from Carson City and the youngest was 18-year-old Grace Strachen from Carson City. Many of the graduates plan to transfer to UNR to work toward bachelor’s degrees.

Wingfield Nevada Group Chairman Harvey Whittemore and former Regent Dr. Jill Talbot Derby received honorary associate degrees for their many contributions to the college. Whittemore got the biggest cheer as WNCC President Carol Lucey told the crowd of his contribution of $1 million for a new baseball field. WNCC’s team is heading for the College World Series.

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111 ext. 351.


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