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72 graduate as PHCC holds its first winter ceremony

Published Sep. 28, 2005

Danielle DeSanto and Aaron Stalford haven't graduated from Central High School in Spring Hill.

But on Tuesday night, they were two of 72 Pasco-Hernando Community College students to receive degrees or certificates during the school's first winter graduation ceremony.

"It's odd," said 17-year-old DeSanto, "but we're odd students."

DeSanto and Stalford participated in PHCC's dual enrollment program, which allows students to earn an associate degree while still in high school. In the spring, they will attend the senior prom.

With cameras flashing, the graduates crossed the stage inside PHCC's west campus gymnasium. Some family members watched with one eye and focused the other on taping the ceremony. The students received certificates, applied technical diplomas, associate in science, and associate in arts degrees.

For some students, the journey lasted much longer than it did for DeSanto and Stalford.

Elizabeth Mohammed, 35, of Brooksville attended PHCC on and off for the past six years while battling rheumatoid arthritis and lupus and working to support her three teenagers.

"I told my husband, I'm going to dance around in the parking lot," she said. "I never thought I'd finish."

Graduation speaker Jacqueline Cavolina-Macholeth, the president of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society on the east campus, graduated from Zephyrhills High School in 1988 and waited 10 years to enroll at PHCC.

"In 20 years," she told the students, "you'll be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than the things you did."

Cavolina-Macholeth has a semester before finishing. She will graduate during the next graduation ceremony in May. The board of trustees voted earlier this year to break from tradition and add a ceremony for students who finished in the fall or summer.

The annual spring graduation, which was held in a parking lot, had become so large that there wasn't a building in Pasco big enough to hold the ceremony. Students also wanted a second ceremony so they could formally receive their diplomas immediately after finishing classes.

Tuesday's ceremony lasted about an hour and 15 minutes.

Just short enough for two students in a hurry.

"I've always been moving very quickly," said DeSanto, who will attend University of South Florida next year. "I get things done when I want to get them done."

_ Ryan Davis covers higher education and social services in Pasco. He can be reached at (800) 333-7505 ext. 3452 or by e-mail at rdavissptimes.com.