May 17, 2012 10:20 AM
TUCSON- Tonight Pima Community College will set a record with its largest graduating class, handing out 3,624 certificates.
But among those students one in particular stands out and it's not because of his grades.
Dax Crocker dons the cap and wears the gown, but he's definitely not your average graduate.
"I am in awe of myself," Crocker says while cracking a smile.
At age 40 he has a lot to be proud of. He has a 3.9 GPA and he's a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. It's a big accomplishment for a man who moved to the United States from Guatemala at age 14 and didn't even finish high school. "I dropped out to find a job and support myself," Crocker says.
His American Dream was to become a minister in the U.S., so he and his wife became missionaries and then traveled around the world.
But last summer, at an age when most have been out of school for nearly 20 years, Crocker decided to hit the books, studying religion and philosophy. "He's definitely one of the older students," says Crocker's daughter, Rebecca.
Rebecca would know. The 18 year old is also taking classes at PCC and plans to graduate next year. Of course her father couldn't pass up an opportunity to take a class with his daughter. "I'm not so sure how happy she was about it," Crocker says.
"It was interesting to say the least," Rebecca says.
But it was how she learned perhaps her most valuable lesson. "Hard work definitely pays off," Rebecca says. "No matter how long it takes to get something done, it's definitely worth the struggle."
Crocker now plans to pursue a bachelor's in religious studies at the University of Arizona and then possibly a master's degree from Harvard.
"It feels good, it feels really good," Crocker says.
And if you ask him for advice, don't expect a long answer. Crocker says the key to success is quite simple. "Don't give up on your dreams."
The PCC graduation ceremony starts at 7pm tonight at the Tucson Convention Center. It is open to the public.