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The Class of 2014: Graduates Reflect on Their JourneyMay 12, 2014
The members of the Rockhurst University Class of 2014, who prepare to walk the stage in the Saturday, May 17, commencement ceremony, represent more than the latest group of graduates to earn their diplomas.
They also represent a host of different interests, passions, accomplishments, life experiences, goals and dreams, of which graduating college is just one.
Class of 2014 by the Numbers:
Here are some fast facts on the members of Rockhurst’s Class of 2014:
- Undergraduate degrees awarded: 400, including 59 Bachelor of Science in nursing recipients from Research College of Nursing.
- Graduate degrees awarded: 286.
- Top five degrees for graduate students: Master of Science in communication sciences and disorders, Master of Education, Master of Occupational Therapy, Master of Business Administration and Doctor of Physical Therapy.
- Top five undergraduate majors of the Class of 2014: Bachelor of Science in business administration, nursing, exercise science, psychology and biology.
- Top five home cities for graduates: Kansas City; St. Louis; Lee’s Summit; Overland Park; and Omaha.
Kansas City Scholars
For some students, like Eduardo Sanchez of Kansas City, Mo., going to college was not always a given. It wasn’t even something Sanchez always had an interest in. A first-generation college student, Sanchez said at one point he wasn’t sure he wanted to finish high school.
“Freshman year, I was one of those guys who wanted to drop out of high school,” he said. “I didn’t really see a point in it.”
His mother, however, started him on a different path after hearing a presentation from the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth about Christo Rey High School, a school founded in 2006 in midtown Kansas City that focuses its curriculum on giving students real-life experience in the workplace. Sanchez worked one day each week at propane provider Inergy, now known as Crestwood Partners, as part of his schoolwork.
“Working there, meeting the CEO, was a big deal,” he said. “That opened my eyes to the opportunities that were out there.”
Interested in business school, Sanchez applied to 13 colleges, including Creighton and Rockhurst, and was accepted to all of them. He said he chose Rockhurst because of the reputation of the Helzberg School of Management.
Now preparing to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in accounting/finance, Sanchez said he already has a full-time job at DST Systems, with hopes to someday work in financial services. But as a Christo Rey graduate, he said he also wants to serve as an example for other, younger peers.
“My parents were immigrants and I’m a first-generation American,” he said. “So I think of this as the American dream. Going to college and succeeding, for me, was never just about getting a job, it was about making a point, and I want to pass that on.”
Tajah Molden, another Christo Rey alum who will receive degrees in criminal justice and psychology, said her journey to Rockhurst began with a choice between Christo Rey and Paseo Academy, where she planned to take advantage of the performing arts magnet curriculum to sharpen her skills as a singer.
“I went to Christo Rey because I wanted to use my brain for something more than singing,” she said.
There, she said she gained both experience and a new sense of perspective, working at the downtown Marriott in both the hotel’s restaurants and its human resources office. She said she came into contact with all kinds of people, which strengthened her own sense of self-worth.
After graduation, Molden said Rockhurst was not necessarily at the top of her list of colleges to apply to. But Lane Ramey, the associate vice president for enrollment at Rockhurst, encouraged her.
“He was the one who really got me to apply here,” she said. “To this day, he’ll come up to me and talk about what’s going on in my life.”
But even since she was younger, Tajah said she has wanted pursue criminal justice, in part to serve as an example and to improve relationships with the authorities in minority and economically depressed communities.
“There’s a negative perception of the police in a lot of the places like where I grew up,” she said. “But I think it might have a different impact for someone like me to go into those neighborhoods and be able to say ‘I grew up in the same neighborhood as you, I had the same opportunities as you, I just took a different route, and it’s possible you can make something out of yourself coming from what some people describe as nothing.’”
Molden said she’s also considering law school.
A Perfect Pair
Like most college graduates, Janice and Laura Taylor are understandably excited to walk the stage at Municipal Auditorium on Saturday, May 17. But they’re also excited to be graduating together, though which of them is more excited for who depends on who you ask.
“It’ll be a big day for me, but I’m really proud of her, especially because she chose to go back and get her master’s degree,” Janice said. “I think that’s huge.”
“To me, I think I’m of course excited for myself, but I also think it’s extremely exciting for Aunt Janice because I think what she’s doing is so unique,” Laura said.
For this aunt-niece duo, it’s the latest stage in what has long been a very close relationship. Janice said she came to Rockhurst seven years ago looking for a part-time program for a bachelor’s degree in nonprofit leadership studies after 40 years working in information technology. Laura said she was looking for a place to continue her full-time education, pursuing a master’s degree in communication sciences and disorders, speech pathology. Though their schedules were very different, they would see each other periodically on campus.
“I feel so lucky,” Laura said. “Not many, if any, other people have that sense of security, or get to run into their aunt on campus and introduce her to people.”
Laura said her degree will allow her to continue on the path to becoming a speech-language pathologist, with praxis tests the next step. For Janice, the next step includes something she’s long had a passion for. After graduation, she said she will begin an internship at Heart to Heart International, helping facilitate the humanitarian work she developed a passion for through a number of mission trips to Haiti.
“This is like a new pathway, and it’s very exciting,” she said.
But in all they do, both Janice and Laura said their experience at Rockhurst will stay with them.
“We’re already family strong and faith strong,” Laura said. “Now we’re Hawk strong.”
Moving into the workplace or on to graduate education is not the only path that the graduates in the Class of 2014 are taking following the May 17 commencement ceremony. On Sunday, May 6, Campus Ministry hosted a blessing for the following students who have chosen to participate in service following graduation:
- Alex Meyers, who will spend time in the San Luca Mission in Guatemala.
- Danny Duggan, who will serve with the organization Amigos for Christ in Nicaragua.
- Andrew Meyer will serve for a year as a faculty member of Rockhurst High School as part of the Alumni Service Corps.
- Paul Harned will volunteer with Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest in Ashland, Montana.
- James Fister will serve as a volunteer faculty member at Loyola Academy in St. Louis for the Alumni Service Corps.
- Lindsey Kren will serve with the Peace Corps in Fiji.
- Colleen Kinsella plans to volunteer as part of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.