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Each one on a course all their own

One of five San Juan Center graduates, Regina Penwell receives a handshake and associate’s degree from Skagit Valley College President Thomas Denker at the college’s 2014 commencement ceremony June 18, at San Juan Center.  - Journal photo / Scott Rasmussen
One of five San Juan Center graduates, Regina Penwell receives a handshake and associate’s degree from Skagit Valley College President Thomas Denker at the college’s 2014 commencement ceremony June 18, at San Juan Center.
— image credit: Journal photo / Scott Rasmussen

Life would “truly” begin once she had a college degree in hand. That’s what Catalina Kohring used to believe.

But over the course of a 30-month odyssey through Skagit Valley College’s halls of academia, she realized life wasn’t on hold, that it was happening all around her, all the time, and that those who say the only predictable thing about life is its unpredictability appear to know what they’re talking about.

Bound for a four-year university in the fall, associates’ degree in tow, life is destined to change for the Class Speaker of the 2014 San Juan Center’s commencement ceremony, but Khoring, in pursuit of a master’s degree early childhood education, won’t be waiting for a start to the good ol’ days. They’ve been with her all the time.

“The good news is that we’re in the good ol’ days right now.” Khoring assured her fellow graduates and assembly of family, friends, faculty, college officials gathered for the June 18 celebration.

The curtain dropped on San Juan Island’s graduation season with the commencement ceremony at San Juan Center. Though small in number, Skagit Valley College President Dr. Thomas Keegan noted the graduating class, five in all, are “rich in background and in diversity.” As such, he said they embody the diversity and complexity of the college’s greater student body, with more than 9,000 students attending classes in this most recent academic year. Those students represent all walks of life, age and ethnicity, Keegan added.

SVC graduatesSan Juan Island’s Wilson Schubert and Kohring, of Lopez, are the youngest of the class. Regina Penwell, who earned an associates degree in accounting, graduating with honors, and Cady Davies, at 57, represent the other end of the spectrum of life-long learning, while Maia Yip has a place in between the bookends of her classmates.

What they all now hopefully share, according to Jennifer Brennock, selected to deliver the class address on behalf of the faculty, is a capacity to weigh ideas independently, question authority, think critically, and have the confidence to reject advice, even from a member of the faculty, if they so chose.

At least, she said, those are qualities the faculty try to instill in the students.

“Once you become a thinker, there’s no undoing it,” Brennock said. “It’s there for the rest of your life.”

After degrees had been distributed, Keegan tasked each graduate with creating in their life the type of appreciation for tolerance, diversity and acceptance that they themselves discovered at San Juan Center, and that helped each of them achieve their goals.

 

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