Last Updated: May 23rd, 2014 - 13:29:41


John Tyler Community College Class of 2014
By James Peacemaker, Jr. Managing Editor
May 20, 2014, 11:11

CAITLIN DAVIS/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT A graduate waves in the crowd at John Tyler Community College’s graduation held Friday at the Midlothian campus.
CHESTERFIELD — While not all students at John Tyler Community College have taken the typical path to a college degree, one thing most of them have in common is hard work.

When asked how many had worked at a job while attending JTCC, nearly all of the 900 students graduating on Friday raised their hands.

Among them was student speaker Renato Arenas. The native of Peru came to the United States at the age of 9. He graduated from James River High School in 2009 and learned to be a mechanic at the Chesterfield Technical Center, before working as state inspector. He decided to enroll at JTCC after one year to seek a degree in business administration. He worked 23 hours a week as a bank teller while attending college and graduated with a 3.9 grade point average.

“To the class of 2014, I know the road to this point wasn’t easy. Instead it was filled with many obstacles that were designed to prevent us from greatness, but you all being here proves that no obstacles will prevent us from succeeding,” Arenas said.

He said his parents did not attend college and could not afford to pay for his tuition. But that did not stop him from attending JTCC.

“John Tyler has taught me many things. Among those are with dedication and perseverance, anything is possible,” Arenas said.

He now plans on attending Virginia Tech to major in business information technology and hopes to one day own an auto business.

“I want the graduating class of 2014 to make a promise to themselves, that after this day they will continue to achieve their goals and become great professionals but also great people,” Arenas said.

He introduced the guest speaker, a man Arenas said he one day hoped to be like, Ed Grier, the dean of Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Business.

Before joining VCU in 2010, Grier was president of Disneyland Resort in California.

Grier also said his work paid off and took him on an unbelievable career path.

“When I was sitting where you are today in my cap and gown, I had no idea what I could accomplish,” Grier said.

Grier said he was very impressed with the school when he came to visit.

David Grier, dean of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business and a former head of Disneyland, speaks.
“John Tyler has provided a great foundation, a pathway to success, an opportunity. And I encourage you to make the most of your opportunity,” he said.

Grier said he wasn’t a top performer in school, but was “hungry” to succeed. He said like many graduating from JTCC, he had to work throughout college.

He told graduates however that things will not get easier after leaving here.

“In my 29 years at Disney, many times I was passed over for promotion, the ones I felt I really deserved. Many times I worked hard for those positions only to be told ‘Perhaps next time.’ … But I must tell you, I didn’t allow those setbacks to impact my behavior,” he said.

Grier said those setbacks were just a temporary detour.

“They made me stronger and they made me more determined,” he said.

Grier also said that in addition to being determined, you must find your passion.”

“Do not live someone else’s life,” he said. “... Work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is find something that ignites you, something that sets you on fire.”

Grier used Walt Disney as an example.

“It’s easy to forget that Disneyland opened in 1955 and there was nothing like it in the world,” he said.

Grier said Disney wanted to create something where families could spend time together.

“That passion came from a bad experience he had,” Grier said.

Grier said Disney took his daughters to an amusement park where it was dirty and they weren’t treated very well.

“From his passion and perseverance, it became one of the most respected and admired brands in the world,” Grier said. “So I encourage you, find your passion.”

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