Whatcom Running Start director retires

Story by Kara Veldman, Photo by Alex George

The Running Start community makes up a large population at Whatcom Community College, with over 900 students participating in it. The program allows high school juniors and seniors to attend Whatcom tuition-free and have the credits count for both high school and college credit.

Recently Laine Johnston, a longstanding leader and 40-year employee of Whatcom retired from her job as the Director of Running Start. Temporarily taking her place are Amy Hammons as Interim Director, and Karla Coglizer as Interim Associate Director.

“I was very fortunate to join Whatcom at a time when many of its early pioneers were establishing and growing our college.  Because there was a small staff, I had many opportunities to get involved.” said Johnston in an email.

“In 1992 President Heiner entrusted me with implementing the Running Start program at WCC, and due to his vision and a lot of guidance from my Dean and buy-in from faculty, the program’s growth exceeded expectations.” said Johnston. “I loved working with students and forging positive relationships with high school counselors.  I treasure my time leading the program and celebrating the successes of many outstanding students.”

“I don’t yet have any comments on being retired.  I loved working, so it will take time to find activities that can replace my long commitment to WCC.” said Johnston.

“The thing about Interim is that it’s never permanent. We are hoping to officially hire somebody within a few months,” said Hammons.

“Amy brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to Running Start, dual enrollment/dual credit programs, and strong relationships with our school district counsellors, registrars, and school district partnership,” according to an email from Luca Lewis, Vice President of Student Services, sent to campus staff and faculty. “Karla brings leadership, academic advising experience, and strong management experiences needed to continue to build upon a seamless and responsive process for our Running Start students,” Lewis wrote.

Hammons grew up in Bellingham, graduating from Sehome High School. She then went on to Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore., getting her Bachelor’s degree in Health Education. She went on to receive her Master’s degree in Education from Western Government University, an online college based out of Salt Lake City. Hammons has been working at Whatcom since August 2014, as the Associate Director for Running Start. “We’ve been slow and steadily growing each year,” Hammons said.

“I don’t foresee that changing anytime soon.” Samuel Wojcik, 18, is a senior in high school and has been participating in Running Start at Whatcom for a year and a half. “I would recommend it 100 percent,” Wojcik said. “The directors do a great job, they are very helpful. They’ve helped me figure out the direction I want to take quarter by quarter and also long-term.”

Agape Wasef, 17, is a senior at Lynden High School, and has been in Running Start for two years. Wasef works with the Running Start outreach program at Whatcom, going around to the local high schools and recruiting students. She is also a Running Start leader, working for the new student orientation each quarter. “I came to Whatcom not knowing what I wanted to do, and Amy sat with me in her office for over an hour helping me figure out the direction I wanted to take,” said Wasef. “I’ve gotten so many opportunities out of Running Start.” “They [directors] genuinely care about the students, and I would recommend Running Start to anyone who feels ready to take on more responsibility.”

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