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High degrees of success

Orange Coast College graduates its 62nd class of more than 2,000 that received associate's degrees and career certificates Thursday night.

May 28, 2010|By Tom Ragan

Thomas Melindi was tested on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan as a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. Then he was tested in the classrooms of Orange Coast College.

On Thursday, as the student speaker at the college's graduation ceremony, Melindi, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native, playfully compared the two experiences, saying each was equally stressful.

But one thing is now certain: His next step in life is going to be just as calculated and concise as it was in the classroom and on the battlefield. That's because life after community college, he said, is more "a marathon than a sprint."

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And if there's anything he's taken from his experience overseas in the Middle East, it's that he'll never take America for granted.

"The time I spent there shed light on how truly blessed I am to be an American," said Melindi, 25, who next will attend UC Irvine to major in business administration.

He was just one of more than 2,000 students who received their associate's degrees and career certificates as thousands of proud parents and friends filled into the outdoor Pacific Amphitheatre to watch the students, dressed in caps and gowns, receive their diplomas.

Next up for hundreds of students is either the real world or onward toward a bachelor's degree at a four-year university, whether from UC Berkeley, UCLA or Stanford, in state or out of state.

It was the 62nd annual graduation ceremony, and although he did not attend OCC, astronomy professor Nicholas Contopoulos said not a day goes by on the job that he doesn't enjoy walking to class and talking with the students, encouraging them to question everything and leave no stone unturned.

Quoting the great boxer Muhammad Ali, he said, "Don't count the days; count the days that count."

"Students," he added, "make your days count."

He went on to offer a few astronomical factoids: One, there are something like 350 other planetary systems outside our solar system; There's even one planet, in fact, that's filled with nothing but water; on another, if you were to visit it, you'd weigh 30 pounds lighter than what you are on Earth.

But just as Melindi loves America, Contopoulos extolled the virtues of Earth.

"We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors," he said. "We borrow it from our children. The future is out there. Make it an exciting journey."

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