ROANOKE – More than 800 students graduate from Virginia Western Friday. The most popular degrees are General Studies, Social Sciences, Business Administration and Nursing.
This year there are 10 high school students who earned associate degrees or certifications with dual enrollment. It's the highest number ever and the students will be able to begin as juniors at four-year universities.
One woman graduating has a very inspiring story proving you can do anything you set your mind to.
"As family legend goes, my first word wasn't mommy, it wasn't daddy, it was spatula," said Tracey Giordano, who grew up cooking with her father.
Now she's graduating from the Virginia Western Community College Culinary Arts program.
"Cooking was something I've always enjoyed, no matter what job I had at the time, cooking was my way of relaxing. It was a way to show off my creativity and it was just something I deeply enjoyed," said Giordano.
But it's the adversity she's overcome that makes her stand out.
"I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant with my oldest child," said Giordano.
Diabetes has gotten worse over the last five years. She had a foot amputated and is now legally blind but she says it just makes her work harder for her dreams. Giordano took a year off and returned this semester to finish her last baking class with John Schopp, a culinary arts instructor.
"We didn't baby her. She was right in here with 13 other students, working on about four feet of table top and just did tremendous things. We teach our students, especially the baking students to really get rid of the thermometers, timers and cook with your senses. Tracy really just took that to a whole new level," said Schopp.
Tracey can see only outlines. She sees the shape of things like a person, but cannot see details like facial features. That's difficult in the kitchen, but she found a way to work around it
"I can usually tell by maybe the smell, or temperature, by touching in a little bit," said Giordano.
"She's going to chart out a fabulous life for herself and the people around her. She has passion, she's tenacious, she keeps fighting through things and she just wants to pick up and encourage everybody around her," said Schopp.
"Never give up. I know it sounds cliché but it's very, very true. Just don't give up. Believe in yourself and others will believe in you," said Giordano.
Giordano hopes to pass that lesson on to others, opening her own cooking school for children to teach them healthy eating habits and cooking skills.