Editor's note: This corrects what Maria Saldana did with her classes.
COSTA MESA — Maria Saldana cried when she applied for graduation — and after picking up her cap and gown — but the moment still wasn't real for her.
It wasn't until Tuesday night's graduation rehearsal, when she saw her named cleared to walk, that it sank in. After 17 years of taking classes, she would finally be finishing her associate's degree in child development from Orange Coast College.
And she cried again, this time, on the way home.
"I feel very proud of myself," Saldana, 44, said Wednesday afternoon in her Westside home. "I think I came a long way."
Saldana has juggled the roles of student, wife and mother of two — plus a full-time job — for nearly two decades. On Wednesday night, she added graduate to that list of accomplishments, joining more than 2,500 students at the OCC's 63rd annual commencement.