By Katauna Loeuy
As the end of the year approaches, students are excited to move on to the next chapter of their lives, but in honor of these milestone moments, a celebration is in order.
Amy Anderson, director of K-12 Partnerships, which includes Running Start, is a volunteer for the Running Start graduation celebration and the Commencement Ceremony at Whatcom Community College.
“The world is full of so many negative things, that to take the time to celebrate the wins and achievement is really exciting,” Anderson said. “It’s the whole community celebrating, it’s everyone taking a night off of their ‘regular lives’ to honor a huge achievement.”
Running Start students are unique in that they work toward completing high school at the same time as earning their degree at Whatcom.
“It’s really fun to highlight that not only were you going to school full time and getting all of your graduation requirements for high school satisfied and earning an Associate Degree, but you had this whole other world of stuff you were doing and I just find that quite amazing,” Anderson said.
These seniors have the opportunity to be included in three different celebrations to honor their accomplishments. The first is the typical graduation at their high school, the second is designed solely for Running Start students and is more casual, and the final celebration is Whatcom’s Commencement Ceremony on June 14.
Kaila Cove, a Running Start student from Bellingham High School, has been selected to give the only student speech at the Commencement Ceremony this year.
“Whatcom has played such an important part of my life,” Cove said, adding it “has really helped me with my education and growing as a person.”
She said she’s nervous but also excited for the honor.
“It was a way for me to thank the community at Whatcom and relate to my peers and congratulate them on their achievements,” she said. “I also really love public speaking, it’s a passion of mine.”
Cove said her speech includes her greatest takeaways from her time at Whatcom, gratitude to her professors and how Whatcom has influenced her.
“Whatcom allows me to practice more independence which is very important to me,” Cove said. “It’s taught me that education isn’t just about getting the information and outputting the information, it’s about challenging your own ideas and challenging the ideas of others to create your own learning environment that works for you and that’s going to inflict growth.”
Cove is planning to attend Eckerd College, a small liberal arts school on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Whatcom was influential in her decision because of the opportunities available in a close-knit atmosphere.
“It made me realize that I want to go to a school that I’m not just a number, but an individual. It definitely prepared me to be more successful in school,” Cove said.
Tamara Addis, Program Coordinator for Conference and Event Services, said she and her team have been actively preparing for Commencement since the beginning of March.
“I am always looking forward to the look of pure joy and accomplishment I see on each student’s face as they receive their recognition and walk across the stage, as well as the pride and excitement that fill the room from the family and friends,” Addis said.
The Running Start graduation celebration, which took place Tuesday evening included an opening speech given by Jaskirat Sandhu, a welcome from Whatcom’s President, Dr. Kathi Hiyane-Brown and faculty recognition provided by Zoe Sturtz and Malachi Wonder.
“Running start students are doing a lot of really cool things,” Anderson said.
Not only are the students recognized at this event, but, “we do honor the faculty a little bit during that time too where we ask each of the students to tell us which faculty members have been instrumental in their success,” Anderson said.
This was followed by student biographies presented by the Running Start Advisors, then a graduate remark by Kaila Cove and the closing given by Karla Coglizer, a Running Start Advisor.
“It’s the feeling. We see students at their best and worst, when they’re struggling and when they’re successful and for me that feeling of accomplishment and the atmosphere of graduation,” Anderson said. “My favorite part is the overall experience, the atmosphere, the general joy that feels palpable throughout the day.”
Anderson said she appreciates that Whatcom celebrates students who have come from barriers or non-traditional students
“We’ve taken the time to highlight students from non-typical groups,” she said. “Sometimes people just deserve a bigger high five.”
The Commencement Ceremony is scheduled for 6 p.m. on June 14 in the Pavilion Student Recreation Center at Whatcom. Tickets should have been reserved by May 3 online, then picked up by the graduate on June 4 along with their cap and gown. There is an extra ticket list for people who did not RSVP on time, but extra tickets are not guaranteed. More information is available on the Whatcom website under Student Services, Graduation Information.
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