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Ex-POW Lynch to speak at Clark College graduation

By , Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter
Published: June 13, 2016, 6:01am
3 Photos
Clark College will celebrate its 80th commencement Thursday night at the Sunlight Supply Amphitheater at the fairgrounds. (Susan Parrish/The Columbian)
Clark College will celebrate its 80th commencement Thursday night at the Sunlight Supply Amphitheater at the fairgrounds. (Susan Parrish/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Jessica Lynch, whose desire for higher education transformed her life in more ways than she expected, will help Clark College honor its 80th graduating class Thursday.

The former prisoner of war will be the keynote speaker at Clark’s 7 p.m. commencement ceremony at the Sunlight Supply Amphitheater in Ridgefield.

Lynch will share her experiences overcoming obstacles and persevering. She also will talk about the importance of education.

In a 2015 speaking appearance in Vancouver, Lynch said that she joined the Army so she could earn the veteran’s benefits that would help her go to college. Her long-term goal was to become a kindergarten teacher.

And, like many young people, she wanted to see the world, she said on Nov. 5 at the Symbol of Freedom lunch, a fund-raising event for CDM Caregiving Services.

If You Go

What: 80th Clark College commencement.

When: 7 p.m. Thursday; parking, seating open at 5 p.m.

Where: Sunlight Supply Amphitheater, 17402 N.E. Delfel Road, Ridgefield.

Details: Indoor venue. Concessions will be available. Accommodations for deaf and hearing-impaired guests available. Wheelchair service provided to guests who need assistance. Call 360-992-2314 for ADA accommodations.

Cost: Free parking; tickets are not required.

But Lynch was not figuring on Iraq: “I was hoping for Hawaii.”

On March 23, 2003, the Army private first class was injured and captured by Iraqi forces after her unit was ambushed. After nine days in captivity, she was rescued by U.S. special operations forces.

More than 12 years later, she’s still dealing with injuries that left her “a broken soldier from head to toe,” as Lynch told the audience at the Hilton Vancouver Washington in November.

But, as Lynch also said, she perseveres.

“My path might not have been the one I’d have chosen,” Lynch said after recounting the injuries, her captivity and her subsequent nightmares. “But all of it occurred, and I traveled it with perseverance.”

That perseverance helped Lynch earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in communication studies.

This year’s ceremony features the first graduates from Clark’s bachelor’s program in dental hygiene. Launched in fall 2014, it is the college’s first baccalaureate degree.

The ceremony also will include the announcement of 2016-2017 Community College President’s Award. This annual scholarship is given to a Clark graduate who is transferring to a degree program at Washington State University Vancouver and who demonstrated leadership potential, a commitment to community service, and academic achievement. The scholarship award provides full-time tuition and is renewable for one additional year, essentially providing full tuition to complete a bachelor’s degree.

Amphitheater doors open at 5 p.m. and the ceremony will begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are not required. Information is available at