Journal of the San Juan Islands


Skagit grads defy test of time

June 25, 2013 · Updated 3:17 PM

Rhys Thompson accepts congratulations and his diploma from Skagit Valley College President Dr. Tom Keegan at the college’s San Juan Center graduation ceremonies, June 19. / Journal photo / Steve Wehrly

The San Juan Center of Skagit Valley College featured five graduates at or under 20 years of age and three near or over 40.

Sandy Harold, a college counselor, remarked, “These are just the kind of people we want to attract here.”

Skagit Valley CollegeShe pointed out that Skagit College has 10,000 students from 20 countries spread over 5 campuses in three counties - with students “from 17 years old to 60.”

The atmosphere was proud, friendly and future-oriented as about 70 teachers, friends and family members gathered on a warm and sunny afternoon at the San Juan Center campus June 12 to congratulate and honor Shelby Alger, Mackenzie Brown, Christopher Jones, Melissa Mortenson, Rhys Thompson, Patricia Tullock and Cheyenne Payne. Josef Blanc-Ridings of Lopez missed the ceremony.

San Juan Center Director Randy Martin welcomed everyone warmly before Skagit College President Dr. Tom Keegan introduced each graduate with a bit of personal background and an idea of their future goals, reminding them and the audience that it is “the interaction between faculty and students that is the essence of education.”

Shelby Alger, an artist, is heading to the U.W. School of Business; Josef Blanc-Ridings will study environmental science and international business at Fairhaven College at Western Washington; Mackenzie Brown will study pre-med at Western Washington; Christopher Jones will pursue a degree in Anthropology at UCLA; Melissa Mortenson, an honors graduate in Multimedia Interactive Technology will be a freelance designer; Rhys Thompson is headed off to Linfield College, then to medical school; Patricia Tullock, of Orcas Island, will study psychology at Washington State; Cheyenne Payne wants to pursue a career as a midwife.

Faculty speakers were Dr. Michael Balise, and Robin Meyer-Tate, who recited a poem with a message to “find the holy,” “take your time,” and “what the heck was that?”. Skagit Valley College

Student speaker Patricia Tullock movingly described her complex, sometimes troubled journey - which included, she said, “some bad choices” and a stint behind bars. Her time in prison and now in college has brought her life back and showed there’s a purpose for it, she said, thanking her classmates and teachers for their help.

After receiving their diplomas and enjoying a half-hour of socializing, drinking pink lemonade and eating a few snacks, the graduates filtered out the door and into the future.


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