‘My journey has come full circle’

‘My journey has come full circle’

Jun. 19—MOSES LAKE — Big Bend Community College graduated a wide spectrum of students at Lions Field in Moses Lake on Friday, President Sara Thompson Tweedy said.

“You come from 55 towns and cities in the state of Washington and from 12 other states,” Thompson Tweedy told the pending graduates at the commencement ceremony. “You have earned a total of 613 degrees amongst you, and 163 high school diplomas. Among the class of 2024 are 126 Running Start students receiving your high school diplomas as well as your Big Bend associate’s degree.”

On top of all that, BBCC graduated its first cohort of 20 students in its new bachelor’s degree program, the Bachelor of Applied Science — Applied Management, or BASAM.

“This program provides customized high-demand management skills courses geared towards the needs of various industry sectors in our community,” Thompson Tweedy said. “Classes can be taken 100% online as well as in person, and the program includes classes in accounting, project management, human resources, organizational behavior and leadership, marketing and business communication.”

The first speaker was a student in that program, Angela Moore, who spoke about overcoming addiction, mental health issues, homelessness and personal tragedy to attain her bachelor’s degree.

“In 2020, I was ready to finish my education,” Moore said. “Although it was stressful, especially during the pandemic, I moved forward juggling work, school and family responsibilities. I surprised myself with all that I was accomplishing.”

But her father died in 2021 and her mother’s health began to fail, Moore said. Her grandfather also passed away and her sister battled cancer.

“With the pressure of family-related issues, I considered taking a break from school,” Moore said. “Yet with the encouragement of my advisors, I decided to move forward. That spring I took five classes to graduate on time. In 2022, I made the President’s List while earning my associate’s degree and three additional certifications. And now I’m graduating from BASAM … My journey has come full circle.”

Also addressing the graduates was J. Jesus Zepeda Salas, who earned his high school diploma through Big Bend’s Basic Education for Adults program.

“We should all be really proud of what we’re accomplishing,” Zepeda Salas said. “I come from an immigrant household. My parents have sacrificed their lives to come here and give me a brighter future not only to me, but my brothers and my sister … As time went on, I went to school and I dropped out my junior year as we were moving states. I worked in construction for two years in Atlanta, Georgia, and I was so naive to think that I didn’t need school. That was until I came back and faced the struggle of finding a job without a high school diploma.”

Zepeda Salas found himself working in an apple packing plant for minimum wage and decided things had to change. He paid a visit to BBCC and enrolled in its BedA program, and a month and a half later was collecting his diploma and had landed a job as an electrician apprentice.

Zepeda Salas closed with a quote from Mexican artist Frida Kahlo: “The world belongs to those who are born to conquer it and not to those who only dream of it.”

After the ceremony, BASAM graduate Digna Rodriguez posed for photos with her husband and four children.

“My husband started a business, so I wanted to help him out expanding it,” Rodriguez said. “And I have been in manufacturing for about 10 years, and I started a role in management and I just wanted to learn all the additional things that were going to be required.”

Marielly Reyes, who had completed her associate’s degree and was planning to become a corrections officer, put her gown over her father, Jacob Reyes, to take a photo together.

“I’m a first-generation student,” Marielly Reyes said. “My parents both came from Mexico to give us a better life.”

“And she’s pretty much the best,” interjected her brother Juan Reyes.

“Yeah, I worked hard,” she said.

Joel Martin may be reached at [email protected].

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