Keenan Andrus knew he would be graduating this spring. What he didn’t know was that his grandmother would be crossing the stage, as well.
“I didn’t even know,” said Linda Houston, Keenan’s maternal grandmother. “I just found out the other day when I came to talk to my adviser and she told me I had enough credits to graduate.”
On May 10, during Estrella Mountain Community College’s (EMCC) 23rd Annual Commencement Ceremony, Keenan will be handed his associate degree in engineering and Linda will receive her certificate of completion in retail management. It’s Keenan’s first time donning the purple cap and gown, but for Linda, it’s a bit of deja vu.
“I got my associates in culinary studies in 2016,” she said. “I loved the culinary studies program, but realized at my age, I don’t want to be spending that much time in the kitchen. That’s why I’m back in school. We learned the entire business, the front, the back, the business office, so I think I’ll do better in the business office.”
Linda’s been a part of the pride since 2012 when she received a flier in the mail advertising free summer classes at EMCC’s Buckeye Educational Center, the far West Valley location of the college, which opened in 2011 in the former Buckeye Union High School building.
“I thought, ‘What the heck?’ and went for it,” she said.
Shortly after, the 4.0 student joined Phi Theta Kappa. The world’s largest and most prestigious honor society for two-year college students helped her immensely with scholarships and inspired her to stay in school.
“They let me know that this education is worth it and to not ever let my age get in the way,” she said.
After receiving her associate degree, she decided to pursue her retail management certificate, but this time on her employer’s dime.
“I work for Fry’s Food and Drug, and they paid for my classes through the Western Association of Food Chains (WAFC) program,” she said.
Established in 1921, WAFC is a nonprofit organization comprised of retailers and wholesalers in the Western U.S. Its primary mission is to provide educational opportunities for food industry associates and ensure employees have the skills they need for success in a retail leadership career. Its most far reaching educational program is the Retail Management Certificate, an accredited community college program that provides the core skills and knowledge to move into a management role in the retail industry.
“Fry’s believes that if their employees are better educated, they will do better,” Linda said.
Keenan became an Estrella Mountain Lion in 2017, two weeks after graduating from Millennium High School.
“He’s always done well in school,” Linda said. “He’s incredibly smart.”
Keenan is planning on continuing his schooling with Arizona State University (ASU) as his top choice, but with a different focus.
“I want to pursue something in the photography or videography world,” he said. “In the last seven or eight months, I just picked up a camera to see what I could do with it and people like it and I have fun with it. After I finish my homework, I pick up a camera and I find a lot joy with that.”
For Linda, a lot of her joy comes from her follow through.
“When I first walked across that stage, I could not believe I graduated, I completed something,” she said. “I’m still shocked and smiling. I’m going to do it again!”