The student speakers were Cheryl Hunt, 59, of Everett, who will graduate with her Associate of Technical Arts Degree in Business Information Technology-Medical Information Technology, and Valerie Topacio, 23, of Kirkland, who has earned her Associate of Arts Degree.
Hunt, a former school bus driver, and grandmother of two, came to the college for retraining after an on-the-job injury. “I needed to find a new occupation. School was the only recourse available to allow me to be able to find gainful employment again,” she said. After overcoming her initial uncertainty about returning to school in her 50s, Hunt said one of the best parts of her college experience was making friends with people of different ages and cultures.
“I have gained a new respect for the young moms who work, take classes, and still have full-time responsibility for raising their families. I admire the courage of the students from other countries who come to study. It has to be very hard to leave families and friends and venture to someplace so different,” she said. She’d like to continue her education by earning a teaching certificate and plans to continue taking classes to keep her computer skills fresh. “I have found real satisfaction in working on computers,” she said.
Topacio, who previously worked in the insurance industry, returned to school to develop her interests in writing and publishing. Her educational philosophy has been, “Do what you love, and do it with a strong sense of conviction and pride. If you are taking classes in subjects that you are genuinely interested in, and engage in the community, you will be more likely to succeed.”
While studying at the college, Topacio has participated in service-learning projects with the Learn and Serve Environmental Anthropology Field School, attended the Women’s Symposium, worked on the college’s art and literary journal, Between the Lines, and played collegiate basketball for the Tritons. Her news writing and work as editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, The Triton Review, earned her a national finalist position at the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards.
Topacio will attend Gonzaga University this fall to pursue studies in environmental law and politics, and plans to go to law school after she finishes her undergraduate degree. She is the recipient of a national Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, which provides up to $30,000 per year to each of about 50 deserving students selected annually, and is the largest private scholarship for two-year and community college transfer students in the country.
2009-10 Graduating Class — By the Numbers
• 1,942 degrees, certificates, diplomas, and GEDs
• 33 percent earned college transfer degrees (632 degrees)
• 39 percent earned career degrees or certificates (764 degrees and certificates)
• 28 percent completed GED or high school diplomas (400 GEDs, plus 146 diplomas for a total of 546)
• 31, average age of graduates
• 56 percent female
• 44 percent male
• 13 percent international students
• 73 – age of oldest graduate, Certificate: Advanced Office Skills
• 17 – age of youngest graduate, Associate of Arts degree
Information based on May 2010 data
2009-10 College Highlights
• Helping to power our region toward energy independence and training workers for green jobs in a new Energy Management program and participating in a $3.8 million statewide energy training partnership.
• Opening the Washington Aerospace Training and Research Center to provide training for the state’s 650 aerospace firms in partnership with the Aerospace Futures Alliance of Washington.
• Receiving a $2 million U.S. Department of State program to provide professional training to, and foster cultural understanding with, students from 12 developing nations.
• Opening a renovated Meadowdale Hall for our Visual Arts, Energy Management, Engineering, and Construction Management programs.
• Graduating the first class of Parent Mentor certificate students — parents who have been volunteering in schools working with immigrant families and have now gained the skills to work as professionals in schools.
• Earning the 2009 Governor’s Award for Small Public Employer for the Center for Families’ efforts to recruit and hire individuals with disabilities.
• Recognizing outstanding scholarship and achievements by materials science, engineering, journalism, energy management, alcohol and chemical dependency counseling, and paralegal students including Valerie Topacio, a recipient of the prestigious national Jack Kent Cook Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.
• Earning industry recognition for our high quality programs including: Emergency Management, Construction Management, Project Management, and Information Security and Digital Forensics.
• Assisting adults with disabilities, who are ready for full-time employment, to find great jobs using $200,000 of grant awards via the state’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.
• Expanding students’ global knowledge with short study trips to Vietnam, France, and China including hands-on experience working with non-profit organizations and businesses.
• Supporting veterans by signing the state’s Partners for Veteran Supportive Campuses agreement, establishing a Veterans Resource Team, and welcoming our nation’s veterans of war as they return to school.
• Focusing on math by hosting the Western Washington Community College Student Mathematics Conference, contributing expertise to the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges, and holding a Parent/Student Math Advisory Night.