CCC’s 20th commencement graduates 110 students

Philippa Holmes is greeted by her sons Gregory Holmes, 12, at left, and Gregory Holmes 10 after receiving her degree in early childhood multi-culture education from Clovis Community College Friday. (Staff photo: Tony Bullocks)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

For Philippa Holmes, the evening was monumental and emotional.

Holmes received her diploma Friday evening during the 20th Clovis Community College commencement ceremony.

Friday was her first experience ever donning a cap and gown for a graduation ceremony. Originally from Newbury, England, Holmes said graduation ceremonies are rare in her native land.

The man Holmes would like most to share the American celebration with — her husband of 16 years — was absent Friday. He was sent to South Korea with the military about a week ago. Since the country is considered dangerous, many times, families aren’t allowed to follow their spouses there, Holmes said.

“That’s military life, unfortunately,” Holmes said, with a sigh.

Holmes will return to England this summer to wait out her husband’s year of duty, she said. Her two children, 10 and 12, will go with her. The children watched as their mother celebrated the end of her two-year studies at Clovis Community College.

She earned her degree in early childhood multicultural education, infant to 8 years old. Even before formally studying the field, she may have been considered an expert by some. She and her husband lived in Germany and Italy before settling in Clovis, when stationed at Cannon Air Force Base about three years ago.

The couple met on a base in England, where Philippa worked as a civilian. Then, she worked in business, a field in which she earned the equivalent of an associate’s degree, before finding out that it did not suit her.

When she came to Clovis, she enrolled at CCC.

“Both my parents were teachers, and I always swore I would not do the same,” Holmes said, a couple of hours before the graduation ceremony, held at Marshall Junior High School, began.

She observed preschool teachers after having children of her own, and began to contemplate entering the teaching profession.

“I enjoy working with the younger ones,” Holmes said.

But she plans to do much more than simply work with young children. Her degree is specialized. The well-traveled graduate has been trained to meet the challenges of the multicultural classroom.

“We have so many different cultures at the moment,” Holmes said.

“The old approach was sort of like the tourist approach. Teachers took one day to talk about one culture and then it was forgotten. We (early childhood multicultural educators) try to bring culture into everyday learning,” she said.

Six other early childhood multicultural education associate’s degrees were conferred at Friday’s commencement ceremony. The degree has been available since 2001, according to college officials.

“It is not a very big program, but it is a very interesting degree,” CCC Marketing Director Lisa Spencer said.

Holmes was among 110 CCC graduates from the summer and fall 2005 and spring 2006 semesters honored in the Friday ceremony. Friends and family packed the auditorium for the commencement.

David Pacheco, CCC vice president for administration, was the master of ceremonies. CCC Interim President Becky Rowley welcomed the graduates and the audience, and Becky Carruthers, dean of educational services, presented the graduates to the audience.

Student speakers were Felicia Cantwell and Denise Jones.