The Ventura College Class of 2012 celebrated its graduation Wednesday and friends and family members came together to honor grads' accomplishments at the 82nd commencement ceremony.
Leticia Zuniga, 29, from Santa Paula, said she learned at the last minute that she would receive her associate's degree.
"I'm very excited. I didn't know I had come this far," said Zuniga, who hopes to pursue a bachelor's in biology at CSU Channel Islands.
Rober Alhanna said that in high school, he didn't know if he wanted to continue to college, but now he knows it was the right decision.
"It's a blessing," said Alhanna, 22, from Ventura. "I stuck through it with hard work and the support of my parents, and it paid off finally."
He said he hopes to transfer to a university and go to dental school.
Inside the gymnasium, Julie Biorkman, 31, waited for the procession to begin, wearing the white gap and gown that showed she was a graduate of the nursing program.
"I graduated once from college years ago and then I came back to school, and I've been doing it for about four years and I am just so excited to be finished and ready to start a new career," said Biorkman, who lives in Camarillo.
Nancy Newland, a nurse who graduated from Ventura College 17 years ago, sat in the stadium bleachers to watch her daughter, Taryn Miller, follow in her footsteps.
"I think she saw that it was a fitting career for me, with flexible scheduling and time for your family," Newland said.
Newland was with her granddaughter, Kaiya Kelly, 11, who said she was thrilled to see her mom graduate.
"I'm really excited for her because I know she worked really hard," said Kaiya, who brought an air horn to use when she saw her mom walk on stage.
Ventura College President Robin Calote told the graduates she hoped their time there had sparked their imaginations and fueled their dreams.
Stephen Blum, who chairs the Ventura County College District board, congratulated the graduates.
"In spite of all the budget cuts, larger classes, fewer class offerings and everything else, you did it," he said. "Continue to work hard. Be smart. Be lucky. Help others as others have helped you and continue to be happy and successful."
April Rengstorf, 37, from Camarillo, earned an associate's in sociology and proudly posed in cap and gown as her friend and neighbor, Ruth Phillips, took photos.
"I just wanted to accomplish something," said Rengstorf, who plans to attend CSU Channel Islands in the fall. "I worked full time. I did school full time and looked after my family. It's tough but it's worth it."