648 Steadfast Penguins Cap Off 2016 With Degrees

Graduation. To some, it represents the beginning of a new chapter in life. To others, it represents a badge of proficiency in one’s trade. But for all, it is a day for supporters, friends and family to come together in celebration of a great milestone for this year’s 648 graduates.

This year’s commencement ceremony will host guest speaker Jessica Lynch, who will share her story of perseverance when in the face of overwhelming adversity. The former U.S. Army soldier and prisoner of war will be speaking to this year’s graduates at the Sunlight Supply Amphitheater on June 16 at 7 p.m. Also addressing students will be this year’s student speaker, Megan Cook.

Unique to this year’s ceremony will be 20 bachelor’s degree recipients from the Dental Hygiene program. According to President Bob Knight, this will be Clark’s first round of baccalaureates after receiving approval for the Dental Hygiene program in 2014. The college is also working toward a second bachelor’s program in applied management, already approved by the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and awaiting approval from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, expected to launch in Winter 2017, according to Executive Assistant to the vice president of Instruction Laurel Tygart.

To Knight, college is about more than just the degree one is pursuing. Although he earned his engineering degree at the U.S. Military Academy, Knight has never actually practiced the trade. Instead, he said he took the skills he learned from attending and succeeding in college, like effective time management, complex problem solving and public speaking skills, and applied them to daily life.

“I don’t want students to diminish their achievement,” Knight said. “This is an important step in their educational and professional career, and it’s equally important to take a moment to celebrate that achievement with family and peers.”

Special Projects and Activities Manager Michelle Golder, who is organizing the commencement ceremony, feels that regardless of the journey, each student has overcome a great deal of adversity.

“I see commencement as a time for students to reflect on all the hard work they put in,” Golder said.

“It just feels good to acknowledge all the hard work,” said upcoming graduate Ian Forsyth. The Running Start student said he will be completing his Associate in Arts transfer degree and moving on to Western Washington University. However, he remains torn between a degree in sociology or political science.

Running Start student Devon Johnson compares graduation to a landmark on a long journey.

“Graduation is like a really big stepping stone on a long path of learning,” he said.

Johnson will be a student speaker at his high school, Vancouver iTech Preparatory School, and intends to share a message of commitment to lifelong learning.

“It’s important to continue challenging your perceptions throughout life,” Johnson said. “Never let go of that innate sense of curiosity.”

Johnson said he will be transferring to Washington State University Vancouver next Fall to pursue a degree in business administration. However, he will not be attending commencement this year.

“I forgot to order a cap and gown!” he said.

Students coming together at this year’s commencement could be compared to a sort of crossroads: a point in time when each student’s unique path converges in celebration of this great milestone, if only for a moment, before parting again towards new horizons.

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