Clovis Community College inaugural graduating class boasts nearly 400 grads

Photos by Valerie Shelton
Student speaker Arva Parker gave a heartfelt graduate address.

By Valerie Shelton, Editor

Deborah Ikeda with president’s award recipient Julieanne Nguyen.
Deborah Ikeda with president’s award recipient Julieanne Nguyen.

The late night study sessions are over for some, and are just getting started for others, who are now proud graduates of Clovis Community College.

Whether they choose to enter the workforce or continue their education, these 2016 graduates can be proud to not only hold associate’s degrees but to be part of history as students in the inaugural graduating class from the newest college in the State Center Community College District.

The commencement ceremony on May 20 was joyful and bittersweet for college president Deborah Ikeda, who will be retiring in August after 35 years of service in the district. Ikeda, who was honored with a special president’s medallion, was the first to congratulate the graduates.

“We hope you remember this event for the rest of your lives as a first step to the rest of your career,” Ikeda said at the ceremony. “Your hard work and effort has paid off and tonight we are all here to celebrate your success.”

Dr. Terry Kershaw served as the guest speaker at the ceremony and gave the new graduates an important nugget of wisdom, borrowed from a Muddy Waters song. The advice was simple: “Live the life you love and love the life you live.” His tips for following that creed were to choose the right career path; follow a healthy lifestyle both physically and mentally; surround yourself with individuals that are caring, positive and fun; embrace diversity; and give back to those less fortunate.

Interim Dean of Instruction Dr. Lee Brown with distinguished business and social sciences graduate Arva Parker.
Interim Dean of Instruction Dr. Lee Brown with distinguished business and social sciences graduate Arva Parker.

Graduate Arva Parker also spoke at the ceremony. The theme of her speech was to keep moving, as she sung in the opening lines of her speech “There is a plan and a purpose for your life, so keep on moving, keep on moving.”

Parker congratulated her fellow graduates, including her son Robert Johnson III, on their accomplishments while encouraging them not to abandon their mission and purpose in life. Graduating from community college, she explained, is just one phase of the mission.

“Some of us know what we want to do in life and some of us are still uncertain, but we must remember, we are still on a mission,” Parker said. “What is this mission all about, you may ask as you look back on your time here at Clovis Community College. What are some of the things you think you may have learned? Did you learn new skills? Did you learn to solve problems? Did you learn patience? I know what you learned; you learned that you are intelligent, hard working and a person of perseverance. Clovis Community College has been a launching pad to do what we’ve imagined and to walk through the streets of our dreams.

Deborah Ikeda with president’s award recipient Sergio Perez.
Deborah Ikeda with president’s award recipient Sergio Perez.

“I became a mother of my only son at an early age, which caused me to put my education on the backburner, but I knew deep down inside my mission was not complete. Returning to school at the age of 36 and now, today, graduating with my son at 38, has been no easy task for me. School disrupted everything that I thought I was and began to build me into everything I will be. Long days and sleepless nights taught me that I will have to sacrifice my time, my comfort and my sleep and it is all worth it. That brings me back to the question, what is this mission all about? This mission is about you developing and becoming all you were born to be because you have value, you are needed and you are worth it.”

While each graduate was given a diploma, there were a handful of graduates given special recognition.

Two students were honored with the president’s award, which is given to students who have demonstrated leadership at the college, have given back to the college and have still maintained high academic achievement. Julieanne Nguyen and Sergio Perez were the recipients.

Nguygen is a biological science and chemistry major. She served on the associated student government and is a member of the alpha sigma honor society. Perez is a biology major and served on the associated student government as president. He maintained high grades while also caring for his younger siblings.

Dean of Instruction Dr. Linda Thomas, with distinguished math, science and engineering graduate Benjamin Vinson.
Dean of Instruction Dr. Linda Thomas, with distinguished math, science and engineering graduate Benjamin Vinson.

Four students were also honored as distinguished graduates.

The Department of Humanities recognized Jamie Vosseler-Eichel, a double psychology and English major graduating with a 3.7 GPA. She worked in the tutorial center on campus and was also a member of the interfaith cultural club.

The Department of Student Support Services recognized Tracie Fleck, a social science major graduating with a 3.95 GPA. Fleck is transferring to Fresno State where she will pursue a bachelor’s in criminology and women’s studies.

The Department of Business and Social Science recognized Arva Parker. Parker is a psychology major and is transferring to Fresno Pacific University to earn her bachelor’s in the same field. Her goal is to then obtain a Master’s degree in social work and doctorate in neuropsychology so she can develop programs and tools that will help improve the lives of others.

The Department of Math, Science and Engineering recognized Benjamin Vinson, an engineering major with a 3.7 GPA. He is transferring to the University of California, Berkeley. He eventually plans to pursue an advanced degree in physics.