The continued growth of Crowder College was on display Saturday morning, as the graduating class of 2013 and their supporters packed the Bob Sneller Gymnasium full for the college’s 48th annual spring commencement ceremony.

The college had 568 students apply for graduation this spring.

Graduates from each of the community college’s campuses took part in Saturday morning’s ceremony.

International student Esther Aidelomon delivered the commencement address, and spoke to her fellow graduates about her transition from Nigeria to Neosho, and the lessons she has learned in her time at Crowder College.

Aidelomon arrived in America more than two and half years ago. She said when she awoke on her first day in Neosho, she was greeted by sights and sounds she was not expecting.

“I was just 17-years-old, and I had spent 16 ½ years of my life in a large city in Nigeria,” Aidelomon said. “I thought everywhere in America was just like I saw it on television, you know, the sky scrapers, busy streets, nice convertible cars, but all I could see were bushes, large fields, and lots of animals! I called my dad and said, ‘Dad, I think I am lost.’”

She said with her father’s encouragement, she gave Crowder College and the unfamiliar environment a try.

“I came all the way from Nigeria just to be a student at Crowder College,” Aidelomon said. “October 19, 2010, I stepped foot onto this campus and for about two hours I couldn’t find anyone with the same skin or accent as me; I felt like I was on another planet.”

However, Aidelomon adjusted, making friends and finding success. In her time at Crowder, she served as a student ambassador, Phi Theta Kappa officer, International Club President, and was the recipient of the Student Leadership Award and the title of Departmental Honor Graduate for Business Administration.

Her post-Crowder plans include transferring to Missouri Southern State University, where she plans to major in international business.

She said it was the support of those connections she made in the Crowder community that pushed her forward and taught her to open up to others.

“In just two years, I have met so many people at Crowder who have truly showed me what it means to care for someone and to be cared for,” Aidelomon said. “I definitely hope these friendships continue forever, as they have set the foundation for success.”

Dr. Alan Marble, Crowder College president, said caring for others is a fundamental part of what Crowder is all about.

“In my 27 years here at Crowder College, caring has been the constant watchword of this institution,” Marble said. “It’s a caring place that always puts the needs of others first. Frankly, it’s our sincere hope that this attitude of caring for others has found its way into the heart of each of the graduates.”

Marble told graduates that learning to care for others is the most important lesson to be learned, and that mastering that lesson could lead to a life filled with great achievements.

“But, I know you’ve already accomplished some remarkable achievements, because semester after semester you’ve demonstrated intellectual curiosity, academic discipline and rugged determination that our terrific faculty consistently command,” Marble told the graduates.