NEW PORT RICHEY — It was a double ceremony of sorts for Danielle and Dale Wineberger. Three years ago, the Spring Hill couple left full-time jobs in the criminal justice system to pursue nursing degrees.
For better or worse, they stuck with it, attending classes while raising their three children.
On Dec. 11, the two lined up with other graduates to collect their degrees at the morning commencement. They took selfies and posed for photos with other nursing graduates.
“It was challenging for a time,” said Dale. “It’s been three long years.”
“But it was nice to have someone to lean on,” said Danielle.
More than 1,300 summer and fall graduates were eligible to participate in the commencement ceremonies at the New Port Richey campus, according to Courtney Boettcher, associate director of marketing and communications at the college. Approximately 345 degrees and certificates were conferred.
College president Timothy L. Beard welcomed guests. Notables scheduled to speak included Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco and professor Julie Hendricksen for the morning ceremony, and state education commissioner Richard Corcoran and professor Jessica LaBossiere for the afternoon session.
Hunter Karius, 23, of Weeki Wachee, was the student speaker in the afternoon. He was the first in his family to attend college after moving from New York two years ago and immersed himself in college life at the north campus. He was president of the Government Association and student ambassador before graduating with honors with an associate’s degree.
The student speaker in the morning was Meclina Priestley, 44, of Wesley Chapel. She graduated with honors with an associate’s degree in drafting and design technology. The single mother of three already has shown her work in New York and the Berkshires as an art fellow at the James Weldon Foundation. She also is the artist in residence at the Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel.
“I was a mom first, then a professional artist but I still had unfinished business, and that was to finish my degree,” she said, before lining up with other graduation speakers. “I’m beyond excited. It just feels amazing to be standing here.”