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These Two Fresno Pacific Students Faced Challenges. They'll Graduate on Saturday.
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By News
Published 4 weeks ago on
May 2, 2024

Fresno Pacific University's commencement ceremonies are scheduled for Saturday at Selland Arena. (Paul Marshall/GV Wire Composite)

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Commencements ceremonies aren’t stories — but the people walking across the stage are.

At Fresno Pacific University, 979 graduates mean 979 stories of first-generation students, working adults, and advancing professionals from the Central Valley’s mosaic of racial, ethnic, social, and economic backgrounds getting an academic, professional, and spiritual education that will help them improve their lives as well as advance their families and communities.

Even within this abundance of achievement, some stand out — Mary Anne Rabanal and Steven Rodriguez, for example. Ahead of Fresno Pacific’s ceremonies at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday at Selland Arena in downtown Fresno, we invite you to get to know a couple of the faces under the mortarboards.

Mary Anne Rabanal, Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration – Marketing Emphasis, Delano

The transition from high school to college was one of the most difficult transitions that I have ever experienced in my life. I have come to realize the best way to counter this fear and anxiety is to embrace these new changes in your life as best as you can, for these new and strange things can be part of a memorable experience that you’ll never forget.

Some advice that I wish someone had told me when I first started college was to take advantage of every door and opportunity that is presented to you. To just try something even if it scares you as you will never know the outcome unless you just go for it. I have found that there is not much room for regrets if you let yourself take that first step forward.

A hard lesson that I have continuously had to learn is that you cannot plan for every single little thing as you have no way of knowing what may be thrown your way in the future. When plans fail, think of it as an opportunity to take a step back. It is a chance to reconfigure your priorities and figure out what are the next few baby steps you will take.

Sometimes, we do not realize that there are more opportunities out there for us than we think because we limit ourselves to staying in one tiny corner when we have this whole big space in front of us. Change can be beautiful, but the outcome is up to you: will you work with the change, or will you work against the change?

Steven Rodriguez, Bachelor of Science in Pre-Health Sciences, Hanford

In the spring of 2006, my father came home from the hospital with the news that my brother was born. Before heading to meet him, my father told my sister and I, “he has a little ear.”

“Initially, becoming a physician was strictly about helping others the way Dr. Lewin helped my family. Now, however, I also realize that my connection with my community acts as an important step to improving health care in the Central Valley at large.” — Steven Rodriguez

One ear was considerably smaller than the other. As my brother grew closer to school age, I began to worry about potential bullying from his classmates, and my worries were reinforced when he refused to talk for an entire school year.

My parents began consulting with Dr. Lewin, a plastic surgeon in Los Angeles. My brother eventually underwent surgery, and the following school year was elected “class clown” by his classmates. Feeling the impact of Dr. Lewin’s work, an unwavering drive to transform the lives of others the way she transformed my family’s began to grow.

The absence of providers who both understand and relate firsthand to the unique issues of the Central Valley directly contributes to the poor health care which characterizes the region. I am a first-generation Mexican American. I watched my parents tirelessly work two jobs to eventually move my family from Section 8 housing to a safer neighborhood. I have used these opportunities and modeled my parents’ hard work to succeed throughout my academic career so I could pursue my dream of becoming a physician.

I have also used my skills to help those within my community. Tutoring at my old high school exemplifies this, giving me the opportunity to act as the academic model which was absent during my adolescence. I also reinforce my drive to pursue a career in medicine through my experiences at Adventist Health. There, I have shadowed and volunteered, and continue to work in the emergency department.

Initially, becoming a physician was strictly about helping others the way Dr. Lewin helped my family. Now, however, I also realize that my connection with my community acts as an important step to improving health care in the Central Valley at large.

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