Be strong, the speakers at Clark College’s commencement ceremony urged the record number of graduates. Be persistent, they told the crowd. Work hard. Live your values.
The Sunlight Supply Amphitheater was a sea of blue caps and gowns Thursday as 850 graduates participated in spring graduation. The vast majority walked away with associate degrees, but others earned bachelor’s degrees, high school diplomas and academic certificates.
“Keep going,” Jane Jacobsen, president of the college’s board of trustees, told the gathered graduates. “This world needs you.”
Some were seeing double on their diplomas, like Abesha Kebede and Milkana Ghebretensae, two Running Start graduates who completed their high school diplomas along with their associate degrees this year.
“A master’s,” said Kebede, 17.
“What, you’re just going to skip your bachelor’s?” asked Ghebretensae, laughing at her friend.
“Well, OK,” Kebede replied with a smile. She’s attending Washington State University Pullman in the fall.
Ghebretensae called attending Clark College the best college preparation she could have ever received. She’s heading to Seattle Pacific University in the fall to pursue a nursing education.
“I’m feeling very excited,” she said. “I’m just ready to move on to the next chapter of my life.”
Anastasia Valynkina and Amellia Gustofson, both 20, completed their associate degrees in professional baking and pastry management. Valynkina’s cap was adorned with white and blue flowers, and stickers spelling “Bake the world a better place.”
Gustofson advised incoming students to “keep a positive attitude.”
“There’s going to be struggles,” she said.
And, to those who want to “bake the world a better place,” Valynkina said, “be prepared to work in a hot kitchen.”
Student speaker Soukaina Ouahhabi graduated with an associate degree and plans to pursue a bachelor’s in computer science at Washington State University Vancouver. Ouahhabi is from Morocco, and spent six months studying English, her third language, before enrolling at Clark College.
“I don’t know if you all realize this, but English is a very fast language,” Ouahhabi said.
Ouahhabi acknowledged the difficulty of pursuing a college degree, punctuated by thoughts like “It’s too hard,” “I can’t do this,” or “I’ll never get it.”
“Trust me, I’ve had them too,” she said.
But, she urged her fellow graduates, stay strong, steady and move forward.
“The desire to reach my goals was stronger than the struggles I faced and has pushed me to be the strong, smart woman I am today,” she said.
Every graduation is an occasion for farewells, but for college President Bob Knight, it was an especially significant one. Knight retires this summer after 15 years at the college, 13 as its president.
“We are excited to think of the ways in which you will change the world,” he said. “And we are glad to know that Clark College will always hold a special place in your hearts.”
And, then, his parting words: “Once a member of the Penguin Nation, always a member of the Penguin Nation.”