By Alaysha Germaine
On May 26, Whatcom celebrated the accomplishments of 33 graduating Running Start students.
In the Heiner Center Theater, four rows of chairs sat diagonally across the stage in front of the piano, and behind the speaker’s podium. Students arrived and found their seats as the auditorium filled with Whatcom faculty, student families and others who had come to honor the achievements of these students.
As the lights dimmed, one Running Start student, Jaron Stanage, found his seat at the piano and began to play. The mood of the room changed immediately from excitement to pride as the reality of the night’s celebration set in.
The Running Start program has been statewide for 18 years, and since its start, it has been prominent at Whatcom. The program was developed so that high school juniors and seniors could earn dual credit at community and technical colleges, tuition-free, while they finish their high school career.
Laine Johnston, the original director for Running Start at Whatcom, said WCC has one of the largest Running Start programs in the state, and in this last year, each quarter has started with more than 800 Running Start students.
“This program is for the student looking for a challenge and some variety in an adult environment,” said Johnston, “It’s an efficient way to move them towards their educational and career goals.”
The ceremony on May 26 was to credit the recipients of this challenge with meeting its difficulties and overcoming them.
As the piano silenced, Whatcom’s President Kathi Hiyane-Brown offered a welcome from behind the podium and was followed by the words of students eager to appreciate their favorite professors.
Elliott Goebel shared his thoughts about speech instructor Guy Smith and relayed the awkwardness of speaking publicly about his public speaking teacher. Jennifer Quimby talked about her favorite Spanish professor, Maria, and the comedic style of her teaching.
“The Running Start program not only challenges students on an intellectual level,” said Quimby later, “It provides opportunities for personal growth through meeting students from diverse cultural, political, and religious backgrounds.”
Quimby, like many of the other graduating Running Start students plans to study at Western Washington University. She plans to major in Spanish and education and has plans to become a teacher. “Essentially, all my future plans are relative; I’ll just go wherever God takes me,” said Quimby, “I just hope they speak Spanish there!”
The white dress and golden high heels of Running Start student Danielle Way were accented by the huge bouquet of reds, purples and whites in front of the podium, as she made her way behind it. She spoke of the faculty who were recognized as student favorites. As each name was called, two other students found the professors in the audience and gave them an apple. Gretchen Coulter, Bob Reisenburg, and Dr.Christopher Roberts were just a few of those mentioned.
Danielle Peterson is a graduating Running Start student who until her enrollment in Whatcom, was homeschooled. “In practical terms, this program had killed two birds with one stone!” she said. “As a home schooling high schooler, I personally find it an excellent –albeit initially shocking – way to wrap up high school. My mom may be a great teacher, but I would hate to make her teach me sociology or logic…”
The majors of each Running Start student vary from sociology to logic to biology and many others. Two advisors for the program, Tricia Wilson and Sarah Pearson, took turns speaking, introducing each student and explaining their accomplishments and goals.
Sarah Coder is the only Running Start student out of this graduating class with a pre-med major. “This program gave me the opportunity to challenge myself and really put to use my last two years as a high school student,” said Coder. “Graduating two institutions gives me a great feeling of accomplishment, and it only goes to show myself that I can do it, I can accomplish what I set out to do.”
Seika McCoy said the final words of the ceremony. A graduating Running Start student herself, she spoke of the many amazing opportunities she was presented with throughout her journey here, the range of diverse people she was able to meet, and the support of her family and the families of all the Running Start students on the stage.
As the lights brightened, the support of family was more than apparent as each student found theirs in the crowd and with smiles and hugs, the ceremony ended.