CHESAPEAKE, Va., April 17, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Approximately 1,600 Ashford University online graduates from across the country will converge on the Clinton, Iowa campus for traditional commencement ceremonies on April 28 and 29. Only one will perform the national anthem.
Monica Lukas, an Ecuador native earning a master's degree in Education, is the winner of a nationwide Ashford University competition to open the graduation ceremonies with her rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner. Students submitted audition videos, which were evaluated by the Ashford University Commencement Committee for clarity, musicality, melody, intervals and ease in relating to the audience. Top selections were posted to the Ashford University Facebook page, where students, alumni and guests voted for their favorite. Lukas garnered the most "likes."
"Singing is my passion. Singing the national anthem is a privilege. To me it is the epitome of having reached the American dream," Lukas said at the beginning of her audition video.
Lukas' journey from Ecuador to the United States, learning to speak English, becoming a citizen, raising a family, and pursuing her higher education aspiration, make her statement especially compelling.
When Lukas, came to this country in 1984, she spoke no English. She took classes to learn the language and immersed herself into the culture. As soon as she understood the language well enough and established a year of residency, she began taking college classes, became a U.S. citizen in 1998, and earned a bachelor's degree.
Today, she is an eighth grade Spanish teacher for the Virginia Beach City Public Schools. She has a husband, four children, and two grandchildren who live in Ecuador with her oldest son.
The flexibility of earning an online degree, while simultaneously pursuing her teaching career and tending to her family, appealed to Lukas and provided her with the opportunity to earn her master's degree with a specialization in English language learners.
"I plan to continue teaching at the public school and wish to pay my experience forward through teaching English as a second language classes which, in Virginia, requires a master's degree," she said.
Since Lukas was a child, she always loved singing. When she first came to this country, she was inspired by Whitney Houston, her favorite singer.
"I'd never sung professionally, but my children's music teacher heard me perform at a school program, liked my voice and hired me for weddings and parties," she said. "I've also had the opportunity to sing the national anthem at a local mayoral political event," Lukas said.
"When I heard about the Ashford University contest, I was encouraged to submit an audition video," she said. "I overcame many obstacles to earn this degree. It's a major accomplishment and being selected to sing the national anthem at graduation makes it even more monumental."
Lukas, who – as an online student – has never been to the Ashford University campus, will be traveling to the rolling hills of Clinton, Iowa with her husband and youngest son. No doubt, it will be a proud occasion for all of them when she takes the stage to sing and dons a traditional cap and gown to receive her diploma.
Here is Monica Lukas' award-winning audition video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SE36iYX2ex0
About Ashford University
Ashford University is defining the modern college experience by combining the heritage of a traditional campus with the flexibility and effectiveness of online learning. The University provides a vibrant learning community where high-quality programs and leading-edge technology create a dynamic, immersive and stimulating learning experience. Ashford University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association (www.ncahlc.org). The University offers practical and progressive associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs online, as well as bachelor's degree programs at its Clinton, Iowa, campus. Ashford University – where heritage meets innovation. For more information, please visit www.ashford.edu or call Shari Rodriguez, associate vice president of Public Relations, at 858.513.9240 x2513.
Contact: Shari Rodriguez, Associate Vice President of Public Relations
858.513.9240 x2513 · firstname.lastname@example.org
SOURCE Ashford University