RUSTON - Phillip Holmes was present with his father, Brandon, as his mother, Jennifer, walked across the stage in the Thomas Assembly Center and became an alumna of Louisiana Tech.
Phillip is 17 months old. He will be a witness to both of his parents graduating from Tech, as Jennifer's husband Brandon plans to graduate this summer.
"It's been hard to go to school with a young child, especially when he was sick," Jennifer, a Dubach resident, said. "He couldn't go to daycare, and I would have to miss class because he was sick."
Jennifer sat out one quarter when Phillip was born but said the stress of raising a child and going to college has been worth the challenge of getting her bachelor's degree.
"It's nice to know that I have a college degree," Jennifer, who majored in speech, said. "We are going to move to New Orleans after Brandon graduates; he's going to have a job down there."
Eight hundred thirty-six students graduated from Louisiana Tech on Saturday, and Gov. Bobby Jindal served as the commencement speaker, urging graduates to meet four challenges: to keep their minds open, to always be seekers of truth, to avoid greed and to dream big.
"You must fight to keep your minds open," Jindal said. "It's not easy. People will try to keep you from trying new ideas.
"Be seekers of truth," he added. "Knowledge by itself is not power. Truth and knowledge is power. America is a country committed to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Jindal urged the graduates that while the economic times of the country as a whole was not overly heartening for them not to be discouraged.
"Louisiana has been impacted with the rest of the country, but we're a strong state and strong people," he said.
Adding that the graduates should make their life count for something beyond themselves, Jindal said courage was needed to dream big.
"I am an optimist with our state and our country," he said. "Don't let things take away your zeal to change the world. Look outward. Chase the American dream and create your own version."
Jessie McCormick, of Normal, Ill., graduated with a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering and plans to work for Dow Chemical Company in Hahnville.
"I wanted to stay in Louisiana," McCormick said. "Louisiana has a culture I find unique to every other state. I've in Louisiana for 99 percent of my life and plan on living here as long as the job allows me to."
McCormick is joined with her sentiment to reside in Louisiana by graduate Mallory Guin, of Haughton, who said she would stay in Louisiana if the opportunity was offered to her.
"I'm going to work part-time this summer and job search the other part," Guin, who received a bachelor's degree in merchandising and consumer affairs, said. "I've learned that it's hard to job search when you're at school. So I will be looking for merchandising jobs."
Guin's decision to major in merchandising and consumer affairs came from her love of the subject, even while knowing that the job market would be competitive.
"I just decided to choose the one I was the best at," she said. "I would move out of state if I found my dream job. I love Louisiana and would stay here if it was at all possible. I love the way I grew up and would love to stay in the state and pursue a career. You can't find this lifestyle anywhere else."