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Career and Technical Education Signing Day celebrates students, awards scholarships

San Juan College received $100,000 from rock band Metallica’s foundation
Oliver Nichols, left, and Xispas Root were recipients of San Juan College Foundation scholarships. (David Edward Albright/Durango Herald)

About 100 students, parents and San Juan College officials gathered Thursday at Connie Gotsch Theatre to honor students who have committed to attend San Juan College in the fall.

The National Coalition of Certification Centers mirrors the NCAA’s National Signing Day for athletes, with dozens of technical institutions hosting signing day ceremonies with nationwide simulcasts.

The event was emceed by Scott Michlin, KSJE radio station director, and opened with a welcome by Dr. Toni Hopper Pendergrass and Joe Rasor, chairman of the SJC Board of Trustees. Sarita Nair, secretary director of New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions appeared on video.

A group of five drummers, led by Dr. Tuen Fetz, director of instrumental music, celebrated each group of students who committed to attend SJC.

SJC percussion students rocked the Connie Gotsch Theatre at SJC NC3 National Signing Day. (David Edward Albright/Durango Herald)

Group 1, 26 students from Aztec and Farmington High Schools, were acknowledged for signing letters of intent to attend SJC to study accounting, barbering, building trades, aesthetics, film and digital media arts, fire science, health sciences and veterinary technology.

The 11 students in Group 2 plan to seek degrees in business administration, computer science, criminal justice, cybersecurity support, marketing and occupational safety.

The 13 students in Group 3 plan to study auto body and auto tech, and the 19 students in Group 4 plan to study cosmetology and welding technology.

Kevin Summers, superintendent of Aztec Municipal Schools, said career and technical trades consists of “people who aren’t afraid to take risks. People who are the future of our area, our state and the planet.”

Gayle Dean, executive director of the SJC Foundation, drew entries for scholarships provided by the foundation.

Dean said those who win a scholarship or apply and receive one gain “a vote of confidence in support for not just your family, not just your teachers, but the entire community. This whole community wants to watch you succeed … they want to watch you soar.”

Dean, who awarded 10 scholarships, said there are many more scholarships available. She encouraged students to apply for foundation scholarships.

SJC Foundation scholarships are funded through private sector lending sources and supplement Opportunity Scholarships. Foundation scholarship money may also be used for expenses such as gas, materials and child care, Dean said.

“My message to you today is … there’s a lot of reasons that you could think of to not go to college or to not continue your education,” Dean said. “But you know what, here in our community, one of those reasons is not money. There's money!”

Dr. Ruben Johnson, dean of the School of Trades and Technology, said that SJC was one of 50 recipient colleges to receive a $1,000 3M Skilled Trades Transformational Scholarship.

Johnson presented the 3M scholarship to Rylan Darnell, who attends San Juan College High School and is pursuing a degree in diesel technology.

Dr. Ruben Johnson (right) with scholarship winners. (David Edward Albright/Durango Herald)

The college was also selected as one of 10 colleges to receive $100,000 from Metallica’s All Within My Hands Foundation.

Since establishing the Metallica Scholars Initiative in 2019, All Within My Hands has worked with the American Association of Community Colleges to provide direct support for career and technical education programs across the country.

After a promotional video played to introduce the band’s scholarship program, Pendergrass spoke about the foundation’s strong support of career and technical education. She and Johnson met with the All Within My Hands foundation the previous day and recently attended a conference where the foundation was represented.

Jami Telford, left, and Bailey Hare plan to study veterinary technology at SJC. (David Edward Albright/Durango Herald)

Xispas Root, an SJC auto body student from Ignacio, Colorado, was a recipient of a SJC Foundation $1,000 scholarship. He said, “It felt great – amazing … I’m so happy. Today’s a good day!”

Oliver Nichols from Fresno, California came to Farmington about seven years ago. He is studying cosmetology and said he’s grateful to be a SJC Foundation scholarship winner.

Bailey Hare, a scholarship winner from Aztec High School, plans to study veterinary technology and said she is “excited and happy to put the money and her career together.” Hare, who has goats and pigs, said she works with animals almost everyday.

Students may apply for additional SJC Foundation scholarships online at www.sjcfoundation.org/about-us/scholarships.