PITTSBURG — Among the 500 students who graduated from Pittsburg State University on Friday were U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Clyvens Exantus and Luis Carlos González Rodríguez.
During the fall commencement 141 students earned their master's, Doctor of Nurse Practice, and Specialist in Education degrees, and 375 earned their Bachelor's and Associate degrees.
This commencent was also PSU President Steve Scott’s forty-ninth and fiftieth commencement ceremony.
Scott recognized Exantus and Rodríguez during his commencement speeches.
Exantus came from a small town in Haiti and completed two goals at once on Friday, earning his his bachelor’s degree in political science and commission as a Second Lieutenant earlier that day.
“His journey to this moment began 2,000 miles away,” Scott said. “He understood the opportunities education can provide, and with his father as an example he learned to love culture and fundamental freedoms we enjoy as Americans and sometimes take for granted.”
Because of the comradery between his father and his friends in the military, along with the structure the military provided, Exantus said he decided to join the military too.
At the commissioning ceremony Exantus thanked his family and made a special thanks to his mother.
“I could not have done it without you,” he said from the podium to his mother.
He also thanked his mentors — including Mark Peterson the political science professor who pinned his uniform — along with his mother Marlie.
“I’m so proud of everything he has accomplished,” his mother said.
Exantus said his experience at PSU has been phenomenal. Now commissioned in the Army, he said hopes to pursue law school.
Rodríguez is a student who came from Venezuela to earn his MBA in international business.
While working towards his degree, Rodríguez self-published a special book — written in Spanish — about his mother’s life called "The Miracle of Life." The book is on Amazon for purchase and will soon be translated to English.
“This journey took him to other countries and now Pittsburg State University,” Scott said. “His inspiration, his mother.”
His mother came from a poor family in Venezuela, Rodríguez said. Where she lived was an area of high poverty and people struggled with many societal challenges, he said.
Despite the challenges, his mother Milagro — whose name means "Miracle" in English — excelled.
One of nine children in her family, she was the only to attend college, which helped guide Rodríguez on the path he is on today.
His mother became an economist and is the president of a public bank in Venezuela.
Rodríguez said he wants to share his mother’s story to give them hope, they too can pursue an education.
“I hope these kids learn from that place,” he said. “Learn something good from this.”
Rodríguez said he hopes to use the proceeds of the book to create or improve the educational facilities in Venezuela.
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.