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Local Business Owner Inspires Graduates with Personal Success Story



It was a beautiful Mother’s Day weekend as more than 40 graduates from the Danville, Virginia Campus of ANU were presented with their degrees and diplomas at the 2015 commencement ceremony. Family members, friends, faculty, and staff gathered to celebrate the achievements of the graduates eagerly awaiting their moment to walk across the stage.

During her welcome address, campus director Carlene Wilson acknowledged the significance of holding the commencement ceremony on Mother’s Day weekend and asked the mothers in the graduating class to stand and be applauded for remaining committed to their education, while many of them were also working and raising young children. She also acknowledged the loved ones in the audience whose support and encouragement helped the graduates reach this milestone in their lives.

Silvana Miller, a local business owner and educator originally from Uruguay, served as the commencement speaker. “I started from the bottom,” she shared. “I came here 30 years ago with just a suitcase, and now I’m here with my own business.” She explained that the language and cultural differences she encountered in the U.S. were difficult to overcome but her determination for success pushed her toward her goals.

“Today is a great day; today is a new life,” she encouraged the graduates. “Nobody can tell you that you can’t do it. Take the negative and turn it into a positive. Use it; recycle it; turn it into a positive.”

Following the commencement address, awards for academic achievement and leadership were presented to the following graduates: Temeka Green—Achievement Award; Jasmine Farmer—Leadership Award; Tieara Ford, Lakesha Hughes, and Laura Martin—E. M. Coulter Award; Terri Grant—Joseph E. Hurn Award; William Holley—Dorothy Coulter Hancock Award.

The Alumni Hall of Achievement Award was presented to Deborah Gravely. This award honors those who have excelled in their careers and in their service to the community since graduation. Deborah graduated with honors in 2011 and began working at the Harrisonburg Campus as a faculty member that same year. She has since been promoted to clinical coordinator of the surgical technology department and has helped the campus maintain a 100% student pass rate on Association of Surgical Technologists (AST) certification exams for the past four years. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in health care management.

A- More than 40 graduates of the class of 2015 were recognized at the Danville Campus’s commencement ceremony.

B- Commencement speaker Silvana Miller encouraged the graduates to persevere through life’s obstacles.

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