By Candace Birkelbach
Killeen Daily Herald
Friends, relatives and co-workers gathered Monday evening to proudly watch the graduates of Tarleton State University-Central Texas walk across the stage during their commencement ceremony. About 86 of the 114 graduates walked the stage at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.
Texas House of Representatives member Jimmie Don Aycock of Killeen gave the commencement address and congratulated first-generation graduates on taking the extra steps to further their careers.
Tarleton has a large population of non-traditional students and the average age of students is 34, said John Idoux, executive director for Tarleton. Many students have already entered the workforce, served in the military or started families when they entered Tarleton with at least 45 transfer credits, he said.
"About 75 to 80 percent of our classes are taught after 4 p.m.," Idoux said. "We are limited in space, but we are working to provide more temporary buildings through the help of Central Texas College."
The school offers a variety of programs including business, education, liberal arts, computer information systems and mathematics, Idoux said.
Tarleton recently received about $10 million in additional funding for use of special items, Idoux said.
"That money will be used to allow Tarleton Central Texas to expand its programs and reach the threshold to receive the Texas A&M label," Idoux added. Currently, Tarleton has about 900 students enrolled per semester and the college needs 1,000 students to be considered for the A&M label. "It's not a matter of if, but when," he said.
Graduates lined up in a back room before the ceremony and discussed their excitement about the future.
"I never thought this day would come," said Felicia Anthony, who received her bachelor's degree in business management. "It was very difficult to commute to school and balance classes with work and family time."
Anthony hopes to one day work as a corporate manager for a large corporation.
During the ceremony, two officers were commissioned as lieuteants into the United States Army.
The student representative who spoke to her fellow graduates was Michelle Pinkett, who began her studies at Tarleton in 2000 after nearly 20 years of being out of high school.
She said it was a challenge to go back to school after so long and to also be a parent.
"Graduation is the end of the chapter for us, but not the end of the book," Pinkett said. "Where you go from here will be based on your individual choices," she told the graduates.
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