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Fong, Chan highlight speakers for PCC graduation

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It will feature thousands of students with thousands more in great stories.

Portland Community College is celebrating its 46th graduation ceremony, awarding 2,614 diplomas and certificates to PCC graduates. Commencement exercises will be from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday, June 13, at the Memorial Coliseum, One Center Court, 1401 N. Wheeler Ave.

Family, friends, faculty and staff will be on hand to congratulate the graduates and celebrate their accomplishments as they take center stage with PCC President Preston Pulliams, the board of directors and executive staff. This year’s ceremony will include faculty speaker April Ann Fong, student speaker Hilary Chan, emcee Chris Chairsell (Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs), and Board Chairman Jim Harper. Student Deanna Satcher will sing the national anthem.

Faculty Speaker: Biology Instructor April Ann Fong

Fong, a resident of Southwest Portland, has worked at PCC the past 15 years and is known for her work inside and outside the classroom. This year, she was selected as the Oregon Outstanding Teacher in Science and Mathematics in Higher Education by the Oregon Academy of Science. Fong was acknowledged for founding student groups dedicated to restoring habitat, as well as educating staff, students and faculty on sustainability issues.

Fong, a native of San Francisco, got her master’s degree from the University of California at Davis in entomology after earning an undergraduate degree in biology and psychology from UC-Berkeley. One of her crowning achievements in her years at PCC was establishing the Sylvania Habitat Team in 1996, where students and staff volunteered to improve the ecosystems around the campus. A few years ago, her students enlisted the help of AmeriCorps, which sent volunteers to help remove invasive plant species by the Sylvania Campus’ two creeks.

The Sylvania Habitat Team even worked with the grounds crew to create filtration systems around the campus, which help eliminate pollutants from parking lot runoff. Thanks to a grant from the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, her students worked at the Sylvania Campus natural area park, two blocks north of the campus. At the 2.5 acre park, which contains a Douglas Fir forest, students got to manage the biodiversity of the area through decisions regarding what plants stay and which types to buy and plant. For its hard work, the team recently was notified that they earned a $10,000 Community Watershed Stewardship Program grant through the Bureau of Environmental Services.

In addition, Fong was instrumental in establishing Sylvania Campus’ Green Team, which is a gang of students and staff who help improve sustainability at the campus. Some of the team’s work includes an annual waste audit, improving recycling, supporting PCC’s shuttle fleet to operate on bio-fuels and spear-heading the hiring of a full-time sustainability coordinator at the campus.

“Frankly, I’m a little stunned at being chosen,” Fong said of speaking at graduation. “I never dreamed I would be asked. It’s quite an honor and an opportunity.”

But what will she cover during PCC’s biggest and most-celebrated event?

“I think I want to talk about hope, kindness, and gratefulness,” Fong said. “I want to send a people- and earth-friendly message. I want to say something that maybe inspires people to consider all beings on the planet and our interconnectedness. I am hoping that graduates relate to my experiences and hopes for the future.”

Student Speaker: Hilary Chan

Hong Kong native and Sherwood resident Hilary Chan is the student speaker for the 2008 graduation. Chan, who also works for the PCC Library, is earning his associate’s degree in business, carrying a grade-point average of 3.81. Chan says he’s looking forward to the ceremony, but not the crowds.

“I was having mixed feelings,” Chan said. “I felt excited and also nervous. I was excited because I was chosen to be the student speaker. On the other hand, I was nervous because I will be speaking in front of a lot of people. The biggest group I ever spoke with was only three hundred people.”

After dropping out of PCC in 1994, Chan returned to the college in 2006 to complete his education. Since he came back to PCC, he has been on the President’s List six times, and once each on the Dean’s and Honor’s Lists, respectively. Chan also earned a Ford Family Foundation Scholarship in 2007, which covers 90 percent of all his college costs not covered by other grants, scholarships and his family’s expected contribution.

This time around at the college, the Phi Theta Kappa member has been active at PCC and the outside community. He has volunteered with Hands on Portland, and PCC’s Financial Aid and Preview days. Chan has been a guest speaker for many scholarship workshops, including for the ROOTS Program at Sylvania, and represented the Ford Family Foundation by volunteering at the Oregon Student Assistance Commission (OSAC) table at the Portland College Fair. Chan plans to transfer to Portland State University to finish his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.

“I would like to work in the business related field and I would love to work for global company which values my experience, education, bilingual skills, and also my multicultural background,” he said.

Chan finished high school and some college courses while living in Hawaii, before moving to Oregon in 1993. After an unfortunate stretch where he became unemployed he turned to PCC to finish his education.

“I was having doubts after being laid off twice a few years ago,” Chan said. “I am thankful that I came back to PCC, because they helped me to rediscover myself. PCC helped me to set my academy and career goal, believe and feel good about myself, and built and enhance my confident for any tasks in the future.”

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 »