LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) – Less than two weeks after an unthinkable tragedy struck UNLV’s campus, the university held two winter commencement ceremonies Tuesday.

“As much as we really are missing our colleagues and mourn them, this was something that we really needed to do,” UNLV President Keith Whitfield told FOX5. “We needed to do it to start on that road back to recovery.”

Parents and students who talked with FOX5 felt the same.

“We’re turning our attention to positive thoughts tonight,” said Nancy Geilen, parent of a UNLV graduate.

“It’s just showing how much stronger we’re becoming,” graduate Abigail Childers said.

It was a day to celebrate accomplishments.

“I was in fear that they were going to cancel graduation altogether,” graduate Kelsie Erbach said. “I really wanted to have a graduation. It’s something I worked hard for.”

“Our safety is kind of tampered with, so it’s great that we can come together at a time like this and celebrate,” Childers added.

Now, grads and their families can focus on the future.

“No one is forgetting what’s happened,” Whitfield said solemnly. “But we’ve got to start doing that healing process, and some of it is celebrating these incredible accomplishments and being able to think about what your future is going to look like. Because it is bright with a UNLV degree.”

“I was really glad I attended,” Erbach said tearfully. “It meant a lot to me.”

71% of the 2,294 students who graduated Tuesday are of minority descent. The age of graduates ranges from 19 to 72.


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