2024 MCC graduates share how to overcome challenges in college

The Mesa Legend’s Rey Covarrubias contributed to this article.

More than 500 Mesa Community College students became graduates on Saturday at a commencement ceremony alongside family, friends and supporters who witnessed a guest speech by First Lady Jill Biden.

College administrators, city and state officials celebrated the students’ success, the ceremony lasting until late morning when graduates left the Desert Financial Arena on Arizona State University’s campus for the excited faces of families and friends outside.

Here’s what students and family had to say about the special day.

Nurturing Indigenous identity on graduation

Graduate Lehua Dosela, vice president of MCC’s own Inter-Tribal Student Organization, was representing her culture in a vibrant Indigenous dress, as she spoke on the significance in graduating from a school that shows its pride in its Native American culture.

“It feels pretty amazing being able to be one of the Indigenous scholars here and representing where I come from, the Gila River Indian community, the San Carlos Apache Tribe and I’m just super thankful that I’m able to strive for a degree as previously my ancestors, they’ve gone through so much in order for me to be here, and so it’s just like a step into a greater success,” stated Dosela.

Lehua Dosela, vice president of MCC’s own Inter-Tribal Student Organization, poses for a photo with her degree outside MCC’s 2024 graduation ceremony at the Desert Financial Arena on May 11, 2024 (Photo by Rey Covarrubias Jr./The Mesa Legend)

Dosela’s family showed appreciation with hugs, flowers and purple orchid leis to complement her indigenous dress.

Women’s basketball champ ready for the next chapter

Mackenzie Shiver graduated from MCC on Saturday with an Associates of Science, and had already made her mark on the college as a point guard in the number three ranked MCC Women’s Basketball team.

“It feels good, you know all the hard work has paid off and I’m graduating, it’s really good to be here with my friends and stuff. It’s so fun,” said Shivers.

Mackenzie Shivers, Mesa Community College Women’s Basketball champ and now alumni, poses for a photo with her degree outside MCC’s 2024 graduation ceremony at the Desert Financial Arena on May 11, 2024 (Photo by Rey Covarrubias Jr./The Mesa Legend)

Linda Shivers is Mackenzie’s mother and celebrated her daughter’s dedication to overcoming challenges.

“I think she’s just strong willed, and always has a goal and always has high expectations for herself and sticking to it. I mean she’s determined, she’s always organized,” Linda said proudly.

“I’m very happy that she chose to go to MCC, she had a lot of support there and just being local and in Mesa, you know that tradition that’s there and I’m just proud of that. She was a Thunderbird out of any other community college,” said Linda.

The star athlete planned to now pursue civil or architectural engineering after her time at MCC.

When asked how she managed to get a college degree while also pursuing a promising career in sports, Shivers said “I just want to get an education (and) pursue what I’m passionate about, I mean, that just keeps me going,” added Shivers.

International student thrived while learning a new language

Mexican international student Hannya Jimenez spoke on her journey of coming to MCC and being welcomed in new surroundings. 

“It’s been an amazing journey as an international student. When I first arrived here, it was very difficult, just the transportation and just the varied language, and I really felt welcomed here,” stated Jimenez.

Jimenez was showered with love by her family as they gathered to congratulate her outside the arena on her grand occasion.

“Everyone was so caring and it was amazing. It feels amazing to graduate and it feels like a huge milestone as well. I’m grateful for all the support that MCC gave me,” added Jimenez.

Construction major found career speciality at MCC

Andy Vela-Gonzalez stood outside the arena with his family who anxiously awaited his arrival. Gonzalez graduated on Saturday with an Associates in Construction Management, a degree speciality he found at MCC.

“I go to one of the only schools that provides the construction management degree,” said Vela-Gonzalez, reflecting that he was happy the First Lady was able to attend his special day.

Andy Vela-Gonzalez, a newly graduated construction graduate, poses for a photo with her degree outside MCC’s 2024 graduation ceremony at the Desert Financial Arena on May 11, 2024 (Photo by Rey Covarrubias Jr./The Mesa Legend)

For Gonzalez, celebrating himself was as important as honoring his family and the MCC staff that made his success at the college possible.

“I had a lot of help from my teachers, a lot of my professors in the construction management side of Mesa, all of my advisors and also my financial advisors. I also got a scholarship because of this degree,” said Vela-Gonzalez, who received an Arizona Department of Transportation scholarship worth $400 during his time at MCC.

Gonzalez’s sister, Ashley Vela, stood alongside her sibling.

“He’s my little brother, (and) I haven’t gone back to school and he’s showing me that you can do it, you know there’s no time limit, you can just always go back (to college), I’m so very proud of him,” said Vela.

Vela-Gonzalez said his next plan after graduation is to attend ASU and get a Bachelor’s Degree in Construction Technology.

“Hopefully get a job from there, now with the help of Mesa, they have led to a way cheaper tuition for me,” proclaimed Gonzalez.

Graduate reflects on hard work

David Perez Villa spoke on his lengthy journey throughout his time at Mesa Community College and the feeling of  receiving his degree.

“It feels great. It was definitely hard to get to though. It wasn’t easy at all, the two years were dreadful,” joked Villa.

“I had lots of fun, met a lot of people. The late nights at home were finally paid off, so I feel great right now,” added Villa. 

Mother to serve as inspiration for sons as MCC graduate

Irene Huerta graduated with an Associates in Social Work, celebrating outside with her three sons.

Irene Huerta (center), poses for a photo with her new degree with her two of her sons, Larry Ginnis III (right) and Xander Ginnis (left) outside Mesa Community College’s 2024 graduation ceremony at the Desert Financial Arena on May 11, 2024 (Photo by Rey Covarrubias Jr./The Mesa Legend)

“To do it for the boys, for my children, is the greatest thing, in the future they can see like they can do it as well,” said Huerta. “I had to push through some rough nights. I couldn’t just give up, I think just doing it for my kids made it all worthwhile,” said Huerta.

Journalism student and Mesa Legend photographer headed to ASU

The Mesa Legend’s own Photo Editor Ryan Hifler was among the many graduates Saturday morning, standing outside the arena as he reflected on his time at MCC and The Mesa Legend.

Journalism major Ryan Hifler (left) and his mom, Stephanie Hifler (Right), pose for a photo outside Mesa Community College’s 2024 graduation ceremony at the Desert Financial Arena on May 11, 2024 (Photo by Rey Covarrubias Jr./The Mesa Legend)

“Honestly, I’m just thankful to be able to get my degree and at the same time, I didn’t spend any money. I actually had everything paid for it through the scholarship and Mesa College Promise program … I was thankful for that opportunity.,” stated Hifler.

Hifler intended to transfer to Arizona State University to pursue a career in broadcast journalism at The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.

  • Diego Esquivel

    News Editor for the Mesa Legend.

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  • Rey Covarrubias Jr.

    Rey Covarrubias Jr. is the Managing Editor for the Mesa Legend. As a lifelong Arizonan, he has found his passion in learning and sharing the diverse cultural and natural wonders of the state. Rey started writing for the Mesa Legend in 2022.

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