Clark College graduation: Inspired to help

Refugee deaths influenced nursing graduate's path for life

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter



78th Clark College commencement

• Largest class in history, with 2,100 degrees and certificates.

• About 750 graduates participated in the commencement.

Top five degrees/certificates at Clark College in 2013-14

  1. Associate in Arts: 522.

  2. Associate in Applied Science Nursing: 86.

  3. Associate in Applied Business Administration: 66.

  4. Associate in Applied Nursing WSU Vancouver: 41.

  5. Associate in Applied Science Medical Assistant: 28.

Award recipients

Exceptional Faculty Awards

• Sarah Theberge, Early Childhood Education.

• Jim Wilkins-Luton, Developmental Education/English.

• Kelly Fielding, Psychology (adjunct).

• Chris Martin, Computer Technology (adjunct).

Exceptional Classified Staff

• Jennifer Wheeler, Information Technology Services.

• Joe Jenkins, Academic Advisor.

Community College President's Award

• Natasha Hambrook.

In 2007, Turi Sado fled his homeland of Ethiopia and experienced a defining moment in a Kenyan refugee camp. He realized he wanted to become a nurse.

"I witnessed a lot of people dying from simple things," Sado said. "Women dying in pregnancy. Babies dying. That is what inspired me."

From that moment in a refugee camp, hope was born.

Wearing a royal blue cap and gown, Sado, 38, stood among a sea of 750 other Clark College graduates Thursday night standing in line outside the Sleep Country Amphitheater waiting to walk into the college's 78th commencement and receive their degrees.

Sado crossed the stage and received his associate degree in applied nursing. In August, he will transfer to WSU Vancouver, where he plans to earn his bachelor's degree in nursing. While he completes his education, he will continue working part time as a certified nursing assistant and medication assistant to reach his goal of become a traveling nurse.

He said he has the opportunity to improve his family's life and to make a difference in the lives of others.

Although his father is still in Ethiopia, the rest of Sado's family has emigrated to the U.S.

Sado is mapping a hopeful future here with his own family, his girlfriend Temima Abda and their two children, ages 3 and 5.Nursing programs are among the most popular at Clark College.

"There's always work," said Doug Hiivala, 28, who left the construction field to earn his nursing degree. "It sounded like the best bang for your buck."

Patricia Burton, 40, left Nigeria in 2007 but now lives in Camas. She also received a nursing degree Thursday night and is planning to earn her bachelor's degree in nursing online through Western Washington University. She too works on call as a certified nursing assistant at an assisted living facility. Her eventual goal is to become a geriatric nurse.

"I fell in love with old people," Burton said. "They're sweet."

Nicala King, 42, and Shasta Furiya-Johnson, 43, both of Vancouver, also received their nursing degrees. Both women had taken a break from their careers to raise their families before returning to school.

"We made it through, kids and all," King said.

Keynote speaker Byron Pitts, a broadcast journalist who has worked around the world in war zones and in the wake of disasters, told the graduates: "Your success isn't just about you. Part of your responsibility is to pay it forward to help others live their dream."