Published: May 11, 2013
For the first time in seven years, Lt. Governor Joseph Garcia had a homecoming of sorts at Pikes Peak Community College.
But it was also a farewell to a few hundred graduates.
Garcia, who was president of the college from 2001 to 2006, delivered Saturday's commencement address to 377 graduates at New Life Church. Since leaving the college, Garcia has served as the president of Colorado State University, Pueblo and went on to become Gov. Hickenlooper's lieutenant governor and executive director of the state's Department of Higher Education.
On Saturday, he congratulated the graduates - 950 students graduated this spring - for their own next steps into the real world.
Garcia gave them three pieces of hard-boiled advice to take with them: First, call your mother, second, don't be a baby, and third, be proud of your accomplishments.
For student body president Troy Smith, the class already has its feet in the real world, far more so than most college grads, Smith said. Smith, who won an award for his volunteer work during the Waldo Canyon fire, followed Garcia in congratulating his classmates.
'I really wanted to highlight that their college experience is different, ' Smith said after graduation.
While most college students might be looking for a place to party, many Pikes Peak grads were looking for babysitters so they could write papers, Smith said.
It was the 45th graduation ceremony for Pikes Peak Community College, which is the second largest community college in the state and serves around 22,000 students a year, according to the college's website.
Saturday's graduation was packed - friends and family claimed all seats in the church, and left standing room only inside. Some family members had to watch the ceremony from televisions in the church's lobby.
As the graduates stepped up to get their diplomas, it was clear they come from all walks of life - some were gray-haired, and others waved to their spouses and children in the audience.
For his part, Smith credited his award to the group of students who worked with him to get 2,500 pounds of food, as well as heaps of socks and underwear for the firefighters who flooded into Colorado Springs during the fire in June. It was his work with the fire that got him the school's Outstanding Student leader award.
'It turned into something a lot bigger than I ever thought it would, ' he said.
For the long-term, Smith's next step will be getting a job to provide for his young family before he continues with a bachelor's degree. Smith, who moved here six years ago from Tennessee, and his fiancee have an 11-month old and are expecting twins in September, he said.