A new door in life opened up for the almost 600 Crowder College students on Saturday as two commencement services were held — one at 10 a.m., the other at 1 p.m. — in the Bob Sneller Gymnasium.

“I want to remind you that as we reach this time, we call this a commencement and it is for good reason, because it is the beginning of just tremendous opportunities for you,” said Dr. Kent Farnsworth, interim college president. Farnsworth referenced a familiar movie from the 1930s.

“One of the things that I think is interesting about that movie is that it was one of the first films that used Technicolor,” he said. “It begins in black and white, the house spins through the tornado, lands and Dorothy, approaches the door, opens it, and all of a sudden in front of her, is this new Technicolor world that is different than anything that she has seen before. And that is when she utters that famous line, ‘Toto, I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore.’ And this day is that door opening day for you. It is a day for where you step out of your black and white world, open that door and the new world is going to be available to you out there.”

This year’s keynote speaker was Rhonda Preston, a 2014 spring Crowder College graduate.

“This year’s graduation theme is a quote by Walt Disney in which he says, ‘All our dreams come true if we have the courage to pursue them,’” she said.

Preston told her fellow graduates that at some point in their past came a testing point.

“A moment where we had to decide if we were willing to invest the time, money, and effort necessary to change and improve our lives by starting college,” she said.

Preston told about something that occurred in her life three years ago, when her and her husband closed their family business, which was started by his family for more than 40 years.

“That was one scary change,” she said. “We had four grown children and 15 grandchildren. Weren’t we too old to start over? I’ll never forget the night he was trying so hard to be positive, and asked me what I wanted to do with the second half of my life. I didn’t even hesitate, I said, ‘I want to go to school.’”

About that same time, she said that Crowder College came to her town of Greenfield.

“After several people answered my long list of questions, they helped me through the maze of paperwork, schedules and books, I was officially enrolled,” Preston said. “My doubting side said I wasn’t ‘technie’ or smart enough, and was definitely too old, but family, friends and teachers reinforced the positive. Now at the age of 56 I’m graduating with an associate’s degree in psychology.”

Her ultimate goal is to achieve a master’s degree in psychology with a minor in communications and a certificate in conflict and dispute resolution from MSU.

“Like many of you, I have a long way to go, but today is the day to celebrate the finish of this chapter of our lives,” said Preston. “Today is, for all of us, the culmination of where our courage at that testing point has brought us — past our fears of the unknown, through the classes we thought we couldn’t pass, to our graduation.”

Her closing remarks offered congratulations.

“I believe this world is desperately searching for people to look up to — people of courage and integrity who are willing to do the work to pursue their dreams,” she said. “Let’s be a people worthy of that respect. Let’s enjoy this accomplishment, but then let’s use it to make a difference in the places we call home. Congratulations, graduates, and thank you, to our family, friends, and all those associated with Crowder College, who’ve made this day possible. May God bless you and yours. Enjoy the journey.”

One of the graduates was Ethan Yates, who obtained his general studies degree.

“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do right away and Crowder is a great place to go if you just want to kind of test the waters and go to different classes,” said Yates. “I also enjoyed the smaller school versus the university, I felt like you got more interaction with the teachers.”

His education will soon continue.

“I am enjoying my two weeks off and then I start at (Missouri) Southern for the summer, I am going to go for the criminal justice degree,” he added. “I was actually in the military before I came here, and it just kind of seemed like a good fit for me. I like helping people, it is a wide range of jobs that you can do after you get out, so I figure that I would get that and I could go into law enforcement, social work, stuff like that.”

Yates plans on graduating with the criminal justice degree in May 2016.