Kole Myrick never thought he’d reach this pinnacle – Portland Community College’s 2015 commencement student speaker.
"I am pretty proud to have been chosen," Myrick said. "I never expected to end up where I am now and this opportunity is yet another part of my journey."
Myrick addressed more than 1,000 fellow graduates and thousands more in friends, family and community members. He discussed his story of being a trans man going from homelessness to scholarship recipient, honor student and student leader, and how he learned to ask for help.
"PCC basically saved my life by accepting me and offering me financial assistance," said Myrick, a Northeast Portland resident.
Myrick’s journey includes being a transgender male in a gender-specific world as well as becoming homeless in the big city environs of Seattle. Soon after losing his housing, the Spokane, Wash., native made his way south to Portland, a last shot at survival, he said. At age 39, Myrick had made the hard decision to restart his college education and earn a network administration degree.
This isn’t the first time he tried college. Myrick graduated from East Valley High School in Spokane in 1994 and went on to attend Spokane Falls Community College for a short spell before dropping out to work full time, never thinking he’d return to college. Myrick didn’t step foot back onto a college campus until 2013 when he enrolled at PCC. This time, he said he got the academic support and life mentoring he needed to build the confidence needed to get involved and succeed in school.
Academics has never been a problem. On June 12, he will get his associate degree in Computer Information Systems: Network Administration, after cultivating a 3.9 grade-point average and making the honor’s program. He will return to the college next year to finish requirements for the Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer Degree. In addition to his studies, Myrick has been a student leader in the college’s student government (Associated Students of PCC) and served as the Sylvania Campus’ student director for legislative affairs.
Myrick sits on several committees, including the Gender Inclusive Spaces Committee, which advised the college on important changes that included building 22 new all-gender bathrooms across the district and making it possible for students to use their preferred names on student rosters and IDs.
"We have worked so hard over the last two years and the victories we have gained have made me so incredibly proud to be a part of it," he said.
Myrick is aiming to earn a bachelor’s degree in Intercultural Communication (maybe at DePaul or Pepperdine universities) and a master’s degree in Student Affairs (possibly at either Oregon State or Colorado State). Those degrees will give him the tools for his professional return to a community college to work as a student leadership, or queer resource coordinator.
"I want to be able to help students get through the tough times and find their paths," Myrick said.