YVC Celebrates 94th Annual Commencement Ceremony on June 16, 2023

Yakima Valley College will host its 94th Annual Commencement Ceremony on June 16, 2023 at 6:00 p.m. in the Yakima Valley SunDome.

2023 Graduating Class

The graduating class of 2023 includes 843 students ranging in age from 18 to 50+. Ten of the students are veterans and 162 are Running Start students, simultaneously earning their high school diploma and an associate degree. The college will award a total of 912 degrees and certificates including bachelor of applied science degrees, transfer degrees, and professional/technical degrees and certificates.

Keynote Speaker

Yakima Valley College is honored to have Paul Francis speak at its 94th Commencement Ceremony. Francis is executive director of the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC), a state agency that oversees Washington state’s system of 34 community and technical colleges. Collectively, the colleges serve 262,000 students across Washington each year.

As an immigrant and first-generation college student who grew up in a financially struggling family, Francis credits education for changing the trajectory of his life. He has devoted his career to giving others the same opportunity.

Francis became SBCTC executive director in August 2022 after nine years as executive director of the Council of Presidents, an association of Washington’s six public four-year colleges and universities. He previously served as the lead policy staffer for the Washington state House Democratic Caucus on higher education policy and general government fiscal issues, and as a senior admissions counselor with the University of Washington.

Francis graduated summa cum laude from the University of Arizona with a political science degree. He then earned a master of public administration from the university. In 2019, he completed the senior executives in state and local government program through the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

“Yakima Valley College has been a pillar of the community for 95 years,” said Francis. “Every day, students, faculty and staff breathe life into the college, creating a vibrancy of which they — alongside its alumni, families and communities — may be proud. As beacons of light and hope, Yakima Valley College graduates will take the knowledge and skills gained here to change their worlds and ours.”

He also represents the community and technical college system on various boards and councils, including the Washington Student Achievement Council, Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board, Workforce Education Investment Accountability and Oversight Board, Technology Alliance, Washington State Apprenticeship and Training Council (ex-officio), and Aerospace and Advanced Materials Manufacturing Pipeline Advisory Committee (ex-officio).

Student Commencement Speaker

Graduates will also be addressed by graduate Abigail Moran. Moran is completing her associate in transfer degree. After learning about the opportunities available for high school students at Yakima Valley College, Moran enrolled in the Running Start program and focused her goals on earning a two-year degree while in high school.

“I had always known I wanted to pursue higher education, especially being first-generation. I wanted to carve the path for my younger family members to see that it was possible, while also making come true the dreams my immigrant parents couldn’t,” says Moran. “That was why when I heard about Running Start from my counselor, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to begin my dream early.”

Despite having to attend her first year completely online due to the COVID 19 pandemic, Moran quickly fell in love with college life.

“Even when my only connection was through a laptop screen, I felt the welcoming and passionate environment of the college. This led me to want to become a part of the community in a deeper way,” she said.

It was this passion that led Moran to apply to become part of the Associated Students of Yakima Valley College — being selected to serve as the public relations and marketing officer for the 2022-23 academic year.

“With my position I was given the chance to give back to the very community that welcomed me, and hopefully help others feel that as well. I wanted to spread and pass on what the college gave to me, while also being able to be their voice in larger areas. It was an amazing experience that I will remember for the rest of my life,” she concluded.  

After graduation, she will attend the University of Washington and pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She plans to later attend law school and become a practicing attorney in the state of Washington.

Annual Awards

The college also presents honors to faculty, staff and outstanding community members during the annual commencement ceremony. This year’s honorees are:

  • Faculty Emeritus Award: Kathleen Ashworth, retired YVC Chemistry Instructor
  • Distinguished Service Award: Educational Service District 105
  • Distinguished Alumnus Award: Letisha Peterson, Yakama Nation Legends Casino General Manager
  • Robert M. Leadon Excellence in Teaching Award: Libby McRae, YVC Surgical Technology Instructor
  • Sherrie and Daryl Parker Faculty Award: Pater Monahan, YVC Spanish Instructor
  • Classified Employee of the Year Award: Heather Lundquist, Workfirst Program Assistant

For additional details, including complete bios and photographs of the speakers and award recipients visit yvcc.edu/commencement

Press Release Contacts:
Dustin Wunderlich / 509.574.6870 / dwunderlich@yvcc.edu
Stefanie Menard / 509.574.4646 / smenard@yvcc.edu