93rd Commencement Ceremony
After two years of virtual celebrations, Yakima Valley College graduates and their families and friends welcomed the return to an in-person graduation ceremony with the college hosting its 93rd Commencement Ceremony on June 17 in the Yakima Valley SunDome.
2022 Graduating Class
The graduating class of 2022 included 790 students ranging in age 22 to 56. Eight of the students are veterans and 170 are Running Start students, simultaneously earning their high school diploma and an associate degree. The college awarded a total of 845 degrees and certificates including bachelor of applied science degrees, transfer degrees, professional/technical degrees and certificates.
Emily Washines presented this year’s keynotes address. Washines is a scholar and enrolled Yakama Nation tribal member with Cree and Skokomish lineage. Building understanding and support for Native Americans is the focus of Washines’ work as a scholar, writer, speaker and filmmaker. Her research explores a range of topics including the Yakama War, Native women, traditional knowledge, resource management, fishing rights and food sovereignty. She is author of the blog Native Friends, which explores Indigenous history and culture. She speaks Ichiskiin (Yakama language) and other Native languages. She is a board member of the Museum of Culture and Environment and the Columbia Riverkeeper. She serves as an adjunct faculty member at Yakima Valley College. Washines also previously served on Central Washington University’s Board of Trustees as an appointee of Gov. Jay Inslee.
Washines’ remarks to students touched on overcoming challenges and lessons they could draw from nature and the heritage of Native people in the Yakima Valley.
“Thinking about my time at YVC and what really connected me and made me so proud was the times that I could hear about things that actually happened in the Yakima Valley from people in the community,” said Washines.
Washines drew parallels between obstacles that graduates will face in the years to come and how tribal communities overcame the challenge of restoring salmon runs back to the Yakima Valley.
“Your life will continue to have times when you contemplate a decision, process an event, or [consider] a journey,” said Washines. She also spoke about how, much like the support the salmon received, YVC students also received support to pursue their education.
“It’s all these different people that are supporting and being alongside [students]. And they take every last ounce of their effort, every last breath for the next generation.”
“I want you to think and consider what is possible,” said Washines. “When you’re thinking about what is possible in the days [to come] as you move forward in your careers [and] your other education, you’ll continue to come up against challenges. But, like the tribal members that have been here for thousands of years before us, may we be inspired by the nature around us. May we be inspired by that journey of that fish and all that have stepped up to help it.”
Student Commencement Speakers
Graduates also were addressed by two student commencement speakers, graduates Aracely Ochoa and Lynne Geddis.
Ochoa completed her associate in business transfer degree.
“I’m honored and humbled to be celebrating this special moment with you all today. Graduates of 2022 — congrats, we made it,” said Ochoa in opening her speech.
She went on to share a special note to first generation college students like herself.
“To all my first generation students I would like to give a special shout out for starting a tradition,” Ochoa said. “We get to become the role model we did not have for someone else and years down the road we get to guide our children down a path of greatness. We get to inspire our future generations and motivate them to pursue a higher education. For that you should be proud of yourself.”
Ochoa plans to transfer to a four-year university and earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
Geddis completed her associate of applied science in medical assisting. A non-traditional student, Geddis returned to school in 2019 to retrain for a new career.
Geddis focused her speech on overcoming obstacles, sharing her personal journey overcoming COVID-19 and welcoming a new child during a global pandemic. Her speech centered on a quote by Henry Ford focusing on flight.
“Think about the obstacles you have overcome these past few years. Think about the pandemic and how that has affected you both academically and personally,” said Geddis.
“I ask you this: what is your jet fuel, what propels your airplane forward?” Geddis said. “Find that reason and use it in your journey forward from this point. You might be starting a new career, navigating life, starting a family or pursuing further education past this degree but every student I have met on campus has some unique and challenging circumstances.”
“Each of you here today has overcome those,” Geddis said. “There will always be things that make our journey bumpy and a little bit off course, but find your jet fuel, find your propellant and use it as motivation to keep fighting and buckle down and overcome the hurdles of life and keep your airplane on its flight path to success.”
The college also presented honors to faculty, staff and outstanding community members during the ceremony. This year YVC honored retired YVC Dental Hygiene Instructor Patricia Hakala with the Faculty Emeritus Award; Cowiche Canyon Conservancy received the Distinguished Service Award; George Allan, former owner and board member with Allan Brothers Fruit, was selected as the 2022 Distinguished Alumnus; and faculty member Michele Coville received the Sherrie and Daryl Parker Faculty Award. The YVC Foundation selected Olivia Hernandez for the Robert M. Leadon Excellence in Teaching Award and Supply and Procurement Specialist Tessa Southards for the Darlene Koch Classified Employee of the Year Award.