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Gold Medalist Encourages PPCC Grads

Colorado Springs, Colo. – May 8, 2015 – PPCC graduates will learn to “Reach for Your Personal Best,” when Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, Olympic gold medalist and United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Chief of Organizational Excellence, presents PPCC’s Commencement key note address on Saturday, May 16, 10:30 a.m., at the New Life Church Auditorium, 11025 Voyager Parkway. 

Mosley will speak to one of the most diverse graduating PPCC classes to date. Totaling 1,645 students, ages 16 – 69, 52 percent will receive a career or technical certificate while 48 percent will receive an associate degree. Of the graduating class, nearly one third represent minorities and 13 percent are active military, veterans or dependents. 

One of those veterans, PPCC Student Government President, Willie Linson, will speak to fellow graduates about “The Power of Community College,” as well as stand with them in a medallion ceremony honoring military and veteran students for their service. The ceremony begins at 9:30 a.m. in the theater. 

During the graduation ceremony, three PPCC graduates will be recognized for Outstanding Leadership, Inspirational Achievement and Outstanding Service to the College. A Community Service award will also be presented to a PPCC employee who has contributed their time, passion and labor in service to students and local community.

PPCC Graduate Stories

Each PPCC student has his or her own unique story, but the below stories highlight the persistence, high achieving nature and diversity of what it means to be a PPCC student.

Robert Romesburg 

 “I entered college as a sad and angry person, but I am leaving as a happy, positive, focused graduate”

Had a start in life that most people could never recover from. He was abused while institutionalized for mental health reasons at age eight and lost his mom to cancer at age fourteen. He left home after high school and attended PPCC. But after failing out and losing his job, he became homeless, self-destructive and addicted to drugs and alcohol.

At the same time, he spent countless hours at the library reading business and economics books and trying to understand how he got to this point in life. After several drug overdoses and the constant fear of not knowing where his next meal would come from, he became determined to change course. He moved back home, got a job, quit drugs cold turkey and re-enrolled at PPCC in the fall of 2012 as a business major.

With support of faculty, advisors and a few key mentors, Robert was able to focus on his studies and learned to believe he could accomplish anything he put his heart and mind to. He even joined the local chapter of Phi Beta Lambda (PBL), the college-level affiliate of Future Business Leaders of America, went on to become the PPCC chapter president, placed in every PBL State competition and helped raise more than $1,000 for the chapter.

His love of music helped too. “My punk band saved my life. I got all my anger out in a productive way so I could feel free to become who I wanted to become,” said Romesburg.

He continues to set his sights high. Romesburg has applied to UCCS for his bachelor’s degree in business and hopes this skill set will allow him to someday open his own record store and support the local underground music industry. “I entered college as a sad and angry person, but I am leaving as a happy, positive, focused graduate,” he explains.

Amirah Counts

“At some point I realized, I’ve been to Kuwait, I can get through this test.”

U.S. Army veteran, is graduating from PPCC with a degree in French despite the challenges of being a full-time student and single mom.

During her five years of service, Counts was deployed to Iraq and Kuwait.  Upon leaving the Army, she decided to stay in Colorado Springs to continue her education instead of returning to her hometown in Iowa.

The transition from army to civilian life and school was difficult. “I lost the camaraderie of people who have shared trauma and explored the world. I felt singled out because I couldn’t relate to others,” she explains. “But I discovered that PPCC has a tightly knit veteran community, which quickly helped me fit in.”

While she attended classes during the week, Jaiden, her three year old, attended PPCC’s Child Development Center.  They spent every minute together Friday through Sunday, which made it difficult to get homework, projects and housework done often waiting until Jaiden was asleep to do her work.

Her friends, teachers and peers at PPCC became her support group and surrogate family. “The culture and environment at PPCC is incredible. I love the variety of classes, the diversity of the students and the great professors,” says Counts. 

Despite the support, some days she felt she might not make it through. But Counts has been a fighter most of her life. At the age of three, she had open-heart surgery. "By all accounts, I shouldn't even be alive," she explains.  

The dedication and discipline she learned in the military motivates her to stay on the path to a better future. It also taught her to take pride in herself and her accomplishments. “At some point I realized, I’ve been to Kuwait, I can get through this test,” she said.  Counts and her son will be moving to Boulder where she will attend the University of Colorado this fall.

Keynote Speaker Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Bio

In her position at the USOC, Fitzgerald Mosley oversees athlete career programs, the athlete ombudsman’s office, diversity and inclusion, human resources, facilities, NGB organizational development, security, and strategic planning. She also serves on the International Olympic Committee Women and Sport Commission.

Fitzgerald Mosley previously worked in a variety of roles for the USOC, Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, Special Olympics International and was the president and CEO of Women in Cable Telecommunications. During her position as chief of sport performance for USA Track & Field, U.S. track & field athletes garnered 29 medals in the 2012 Olympic Games, representing the highest medal count for the U.S. in 20 years.

At the 1984 Olympic games, Fitzgerald Mosley became the first African American woman and just the second American woman to win Olympic gold in the 100-meter hurdles. The 14-time All-American is a member of the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, the Penn Relays Hall of Fame and the University of Tennessee Lady Vols Hall of Fame. A 1984 graduate of University of Tennessee with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, Fitzgerald Mosley lives in Colorado Springs with her husband, Ron, and their two children.

About PPCC

Pikes Peak Community College is in its 47th year of operation and has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission since 1975. It is a two-year college offering 158 associate degrees and various certifications in career and technical fields. With four campuses and two military education centers in El Paso County, PPCC serves approximately 21,000 students annually.