Graduates of Heald College in Modesto are the ‘The First of the First’

MODESTO – They were the first group of students to enroll and now the first to graduate.
The first graduating class from Heald College’s Modesto campus was honored on Jan. 20, with a graduation ceremony that served as a tribute to them.
Draped in black caps and gowns, 65 students walked across the stage to receive their diploma with a few hundred friends, relatives and Heald staff cheering them on from the audience.
Ezra Salas, president of the private college’s Modesto campus and a Heald Graduate himself, urged the students to “continue to soar like eagles” and reminded them of their place in the campus’ history as the first graduating class for Heald College Modesto.
“This class is not only your success to celebrate but Heald’s as well,” he said.
Salas noted that the graduates, all of whom earned Associate in Applied Science degrees, walked away prepared to be medical assistants, dental assistants, paralegals, and office managers, among other professions. Considering the low amount of Stanislaus County Residents that have earned a college degree, their skills are much needed in the area, Salas noted.
Nearly one-third of the Heald graduates in Modesto already have jobs lined up in their field, Salas said.
“You’re on the diving board of your career,” he said. “Now all you have to do is jump.”
The Modesto campus graduates are part of hundreds of students who graduate from Heald’s 12 campuses each year. Yet they are the only ones who recently made history, noted Christine Carter, one of the ceremony student speakers.
“We are the first of the first,” Carter said. “And as the first we are looked upon as the standard.”
Of the 850 students who attend Heald’s Modesto campus, roughly 60 percent are Latino. Out of 40 instructors and 53 staff members, nearly two dozen of them are Spanish-speaking.
Founded in 1863, Heald has 12 locations throughout the western United States: Stockton, Modesto, Salinas, Rancho Cordova, Roseville, Fresno, Concord, Hayward, San Francisco, San Jose, Honolulu and Portland.
Heald’s Modesto’s campus, a 30,000-square-foot facility, opened in July 2010. The campus offers 18- and 24-month programs in Healthcare, Business, and Legal. It also has medical and dental labs, a bookstore and up to date computer labs.
After Heald graduate Yanelly Montesinos walked across the stage during the Modesto campus ceremony, she became the first person in her family to earn a college degree. The 21-year-old honor student already has a job at a local clinic as a medical assistant.
Although it was not easy working, going to school and raising a child, Montesinos said she stayed motivated out of the desire to set a good example for her two year-old son Alexander.
“I wanted to make a better future for my son,” she said. “I want him to go to college too.”

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