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PCC Class of 2000 Set to Continue Extraordinary Success

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The day of Saturday, June 3 will mean a lot to some, but will mean everything to others. On that day, almost 1,900 students will earn associate degrees, certificates, high school diplomas and GEDs from Portland Community College. An 11 a.m. ceremony at the Memorial Coliseum, located at One Center Court, 1401 North Wheeler Ave, will honor PCC’s diverse graduates. The 38th PCC commencement ceremony will feature speaker Charles Jordan, director of Portland Parks and Recreation, and student speaker David Poole, who is a 2000 Outstanding Community College Scholar recipient. But Poole’s story is just one of many impressive students who’ll graduate on June 3.

Many unique people with even more unique stories will walk across the stage to get a degree or certificate, but every one of the students at the graduation will reflect the diversity of the PCC community. Lara Knudsen, 17, entered the PCC High School Completion program in 1998 and since has maintained a 3.9 grade-point average and will get her associate of arts degree. Knudsen, who is also an Outstanding Community College Scholar recipient, will transfer to Marlboro College in Vermont and pursue a degree in international studies. Heather Johnson, 16, is an international touring harpist and flutist who will receive associate degrees in arts and science after completing 120 credits of studies at the college. She tours regularly with the Portland Youth Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Youth Symphony.

Besides high school age students earning college degrees, there will be people who have survived many hardships taking the walk across the stage. There is Vachi Vivorakit, 20, who was abandoned by both her parents after she came to the U.S. from Thailand. Eventually, she spent time bouncing from foster home to foster home ‘ a total of six. Today, Vivorakit has achieved her GED through PCC and is working and living on her own. And there is Candy McDonald who didn’t let a challenging childhood and an even more challenging single-parent life stop her from getting her associate of arts degree and high school diploma from PCC. Next fall, McDonald will be enrolled at Linfield College.

A total of 1,855 students will get a degree or completion certificate through PCC for the 1999-2000 year. There are 240 students who will receive high honors and another 117 that have been chosen as Phi Theta Kappa (PCC’s two-year honor society) honorees. In all, there are 632 transfer and 601 associate of applied science degrees, and 271 certificate recipients. There are also 134 high school and 79 GED certificates that will be awarded.

"The stories of many of this year’s graduates are impressive and I’m thankful that PCC could play such a pivotal role in their lives," said PCC President Dan Moriarty. "As we look to the future, the college will undoubtedly continue to provide its students, and the community, the tools they need to make that next important step in their lives. I congratulate each and every graduate for a job well done and wish them luck in their next step in life."

At 39 years of age, student commencement speaker David Poole is also an amazing story in that he enrolled in a PCC class while incarcerated for drug abuse at a corrections facility in the metro area. Once out of the facility, and through his own hard work and dedication, he has remained clean for five years. A north Portland resident, Poole also wrote for The Bridge (PCC’s student newspaper), was president of the computer club and served as vice president of the Cascade Campus chapter of Phi Theta Kappa. He carries a grade-point average of 3.66 and is pursuing political science and journalism degrees. He is active in student government and a volunteer tutor at the Recovery Association Project and YWCA’s battered women’s shelter. Poole plans to transfer to Lewis and Clark College.

"My education is everything to me," Poole said. "At PCC I am getting a whole new life. It took me longer than most students to get here, but now I am here, I cherish this experience above all else. I am building it one class at a time."

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »