Troysheana Hawkins of Davenport has much to celebrate with her two sons this Mother's Day.
Hawkins entered Iowa State University eight years ago with a full-ride scholarship that propelled her into her senior year in 2009. Then she got pregnant and dropped out, one semester shy of graduation.
Four years later, the 26-year-old single mother finally walked the stage in Hilton Coliseum. She received her degree in liberal studies Saturday, alongside 3,300-plus ISU undergraduate students in the class of 2013.
"I just made it back last January and now I'm walking across the stage," Hawkins said Saturday afternoon. "It feels great and I'm excited, like I've overcome an adversary."
She said she would spend the rest of the weekend celebrating with her sons Justin, 4, and Jakobe Burrage, 2. Hawkins is currently in round two of interviews to become a financial analyst.
Overall, Iowa State handed out diplomas to more than 3,700 students this weekend, and the University of Northern Iowa more than 1,600. The state's other public university, the University of Iowa, will graduate more than 5,100 students over the next week. At Drake University in Des Moines, which has the state's second-largest on-campus four-year enrollment, commencement exercises will be Saturday and Sunday.
In Ames on Saturday, CNN business reporter Christine Romans, who graduated from ISU 20 years ago, commissioned the class of 2013 into a growing economy and expanding job market.
"When you enrolled here four years ago or five years ago, your timing was perfect," Romans told the students. "Today you face better job prospects than any of the last four graduating classes."
Romans cited a rapidly improving housing market, stock market numbers that have doubled in the last five years and multiple industries that are hiring at an increased rate.
Following a theme of technology and the digital age, she charged the generation Y graduates with a quote from Apple founder Steve Jobs.
"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life," Romans said. "Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."
She also compared the technological wonder of her youth, an Atari gaming system, to smart phones and tablets, encouraging students to take advantage of the powerful resources and tools at their fingertips.
Several ISU students who have already secured full-time jobs described graduation as a stepping stone and stamp of determination and endurance.
"It took a lot of long nights, determination and also the support of my family and friends," said 22-year-old Farica Lomas, who studied supply chain money management and marketing.
Lomas is moving to Kansas City to accept a job with Honeywell.
Others described the last four or five years as long and exhausting.
"I'm tired. I want to go out and drink," said mechanical engineering student Alex Baltes of St. Paul, Minn., before crossing the stage.
Joseph Cicciarelli, of Peoria, Ill., said he had a blast during his five years at ISU completing a degree in engineering construction. This summer he will move to Denver for a job in his field.
"It's bittersweet, no doubt about that," Cicciarelli said, sporting a pair of sunglasses inside Hilton Coliseum. "But you've got to graduate at some point. You can't stay around for too long."
Source: Des Moines Register