It took Patty Esquivel more than two decades to finish, but on Wednesday she finally received her associate’s degree from Los Angeles Mission College – an achievement she started but failed to complete in Mexico, her homeland. Esquivel, 47, of Pacoima, was one of thousands of community college students who were honored Wednesday at commencement ceremonies at Mission, Los Angeles Valley and Pierce Colleges. “In order to succeed in life, you need to have an education,” said Esquivel, adding that her purpose in continuing her schooling was to serve as an example to her children. The mother of three first enrolled in the Sylmar school in 1986, but repeatedly put her studies on hold to raise her kids while her husband worked two jobs. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2But her determination paid off: Her 20-year-old daughter, Patricia, also got her associate’s degree, in psychology, at Mission, and plans to follow her mother by attending California State University, Northridge, in the fall. “It’s a very emotional day for us,” said Patricia Esquivel, who seemed prouder of her mother’s accomplishment than her own. “After all this time, my mom finally was able to get her A.A. (degree). She’s been at it for some time. “She was an inspiration to us. Whenever she would bring home her report card, she would say, `If I can get an A and still take care of you, you can get an A.’ She always pushed us to do the best we could in everything.” Keynote speaker Thomas Brown, an educator, emphasized that despite Mission College’s year of turmoil – marked by faculty infighting – the faculty and staff never lost sight of what was important: the students’ education. “This has not been an easy year,” he said. “It’s been a year full of controversy. … But the heart and soul of Mission College is to help students succeed.” At Los Angeles Valley College in Valley Glen, Alex Cuevas, 38, of North Hollywood, who was graduating Thursday as a registered nurse, said LAVC helped him get one step closer to his dream. “I wanted to be a doctor, but – impatient – I settled for the next-best thing,” Cuevas said, jokingly. Unable to afford medical school, he worked as a pharmacy manager and took classes at LAVC to become a nurse, noting as he did so the shortage of nursing instructors. Eventually, he plans to get his master’s degree so he can become a nursing instructor and help train the next generation of nurses. Los Angeles City Controller Laura Chick, who attended LAVC in the 1980s, told the LAVC graduates she hoped they have fulfilling lives ahead of them, and urged them to keep learning and to own their decisions. At Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine noted that his long career, first in law enforcment and later in politics, began at a community college. “If you don’t care about your future, no one else will care to help you achieve your goals,” Zine said. “You are the only one who can stop you from succeeding and achieving your goals.” [email protected] (818) 713-3663160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!