Fort Riley, Kansas



Post-wide ceremony honors graduates of 10 different universities

By Jessica Healey | POST | February 12, 2014

Smiles and tears filled Riley’s Conference Center during a Dec. 12 combined post-wide graduation ceremony.

A total of 179 graduates were awarded degrees, ranging from associate to master’s degrees.

About 10 different colleges and universities were represented in the student body.

Many demographics could be found among the students as well. Some were the dependents of active-duty Soldiers stationed at Fort Riley, recently out of high school, while others were parents and adults with full-time jobs. Some had continued on a long marathon of college education, and others had returned after a long hiatus.

One military spouse had a word of encouragement for young mothers hoping to earn a college degree.

“To all the young moms who were looked down on and thought that their lives were done, just know that you can still walk with a degree if you keep your head up,” said Liu Dellafosse Mafi, military spouse.

Mafi’s family flew in from California and Hawaii to watch her graduate. She also was excited that her recently redeployed husband could be present for the big event.

Brig. Christopher Ghika, 1st Infantry Division deputy commanding general for readiness, delivered the commencement address, expressing to the students that they should feel proud, but also grateful to their family and friends who helped them achieve their success.

One graduate was attending his very first graduation ceremony, despite it being for his master’s degree.

“I’ve never actually been to any of my graduation ceremonies before, not even high school, so this is very exciting,” said Brian Oliveras, Manhattan.

Oliveras received his master’s degree in teaching from Southwestern College. He previously earned his bachelor’s degree in political science about 10 years ago from Kansas State University.

Since then, he began teaching and has taught overseas in Thailand. He now teaches ninth-grade English at Wamego High School, Wamego, Kan.

“It’s been a long, rough journey with kids and a fulltime job, but I finally did it,” Oliveras said. “I’m absolutely thrilled. This is a monumental event for me.”

One Barton Community College graduate smiled proudly after receiving his degree and being congratulated by his active-duty father. The graduate’s girlfriend and 3-month-old daughter also were in attendance.

“Feels good to get the degree. It’s been a long hard fight; a lot of emotions going on,” said William Flenniken, Junction City.

He said he was motivated to go to college to better himself and plans on transferring to K-State to pursue a pre-law degree.

“It’s an honor to graduate alongside Soldiers,” Flenniken said.