Vivian and Shelby will be graduating together this Saturday.

Graduates of CNM: Vivian and Shelby Atcitty

Meet the mother/daughter duo who are graduating together this weekend
May 02, 2018

Vivian and Shelby Atcitty do not give up.

Here’s proof: Vivian, 63, first enrolled in CNM back in 2006 when it was called TVI. Twelve years later, she’s graduating with her associate degree in Integrated Studies. Her daughter Shelby, 25, has been at CNM since 2010 and she’s graduating too, with an associate degree in Business Administration.

“As Navajos, we always encourage our family members to better themselves, and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” says Vivian. “And for anyone else out there who’s taking a while to complete their degree, I would just say ‘keep going!’”

As you can imagine, the journey through college has not been easy. Both Vivian and Shelby have worked to help pay for their classes; Vivian at Presbyterian and Shelby at the Albuquerque Convention Center. Vivian didn’t pass a lab during her tenure and there was the temptation to drop out. She was also nervous about being the oldest person in class. Thankfully, she says, all the other students were not only respectful, but also kind.

“The students always encouraged me, so I wanted to show them that even if you have to struggle, you can get it done,” she says.

When she’s awarded her degree at the CNM graduation on Saturday in Tingley Coliseum, Vivian will be the first person in her family to have graduated from college. (Vivian’s mom, Shelby’s grandma, could not read or write, and none of Vivian’s siblings went to college). When Shelby gets her degree, she’ll be the first among her three siblings to get a degree as well.

Vivian hopes the degree helps her advance professionally at Presbyterian, where she works as a unit secretary and nurse tech. Shelby, who’s currently a lead server at the Convention Center, wants to get her bachelor’s at the University of New Mexico in Business Administration and eventually use that degree to work in accounting.

“I love working with money,” she says.

More immediately, mom and daughter just want to enjoy their success. Vivian, who’s a traditional dancer, has spent some time beading her and Shelby’s graduation hats so that they stand out during the ceremony. They hope to be able to go up on stage together to get their degrees, and afterwards they’re planning a big meal with the rest of the family.

“I’m glad I finished,” Vivian says. “I did it for my job, and I did it to be a role model, but I also finished because it was important to do something for myself.”