Hugs, tears, smiles, kisses. Flowers, family, friends.
A Mylar balloon for nursing student Melissa Walters from her fiance. A visit from a brother in Chicago for nursing student Nahid Sarvinehbaghi. A day of celebration. An evening of hope for the future.
More than 350 students graduated from Western Nevada Community College on Tuesday at the Carson City Community Center, receiving associate's degrees or certificates of achievement.
"I feel great," said Sarvinehbaghi, who has lived in Carson City for four years, worked on her nursing degree for two years and will commute to Reno to Washoe Medical Center for her new job. "It's like, after all the hardships, all the studying and being a student of English as a second language, I made it."
Her brother Saied Sarvinehbaghi flew in from Illinois for the occasion. He is her only family in the United States.
"She's my sister, of course I came," he said. "I'm really happy for her. I wish her the best. I knew she could do it."
Tuesday's nursing class of 44 students was the largest ever to graduate from WNCC's two-year program. The students, attired in their nursing uniforms, blanketed the stage in a sheen of white.
"I'm convinced this is a magnificent class. I'm extraordinarily proud of them," said Dr. Judith Cordia, WNCC's director of allied health. "I can't say enough about this wonderful group of people."
Each graduate was pinned with a nursing emblem by family, friends or co-workers at the 2 p.m. ceremony. The pin is considered a sign of accomplishment by nurses all over, according to Cordia.
"The price of this pin is probably under $100," she said. "But the value of the pin is indescribable."
Family and friends began gathering again at the community center about 6 p.m. for the formal commencement.
Outside the Sierra Highlanders Pipe Band warmed up as student Tamara Cox stood with her grandfather, Darrell Dillard.
"It's taken like forever," said the mother of three, who is graduating with an associate's degree in management. "I'm glad I'm done. I'm ready to have a break from school for a while."
Her husband, children, parents and grandparents were present at her commencement.
"She's worked a long time for this," Dillard said. "I'm glad to see it come true."
Graduates streamed into the auditorium in their blue robes. Some looked pensive, but most wore smiles. College President Dr. Carol Lucey welcomed them to the 34th annual commencement.
"This is the highlight of every year, when we send our graduates off and wish them the best," she said.
WNCC's youngest graduate was 19, and the oldest was 68. Graduates are from across Northern Nevada, including Reno, Genoa, Fallon, Carson City, Wellington and Yerington.
"It feels very good to graduate," said Jeremy Telling of Reno, who will begin a job in the intensive-care unit of Washoe Medical Center. "It's been two years of hard work and sacrifice and being away from things that are important to me."
His wife, Olivia, stood nearby with their daughter, Olivia.
"I'm just so excited for him, and I'm excited it's over," she said. "It's been a really long two years, and it's been difficult because school consumed most off of his time."
n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.
High school graduations
• Carson High School: 10 a.m. June 11 on the football field
• Dayton High School: 7 p.m. June 9 on the football field
• Douglas High School: June 17 on the football field
• Pioneer High School: 6 p.m., June 7 at the Carson City Community Center
• Silver Stage High School: 6:30 p.m. June 9 in the school gym
• Silver State High School: 6 p.m. June 10 at the Brewery Arts Center
• Smith Valley High School: 7 p.m. June 10 in the school gym
• Virginia City High School: 4 p.m. June 4 at Piper's Opera House
• Yerington High School: 10 a.m. June 11 at the football field