Clark College celebrates Class of 2019

This year’s ceremony features keynote speaker Julianna Marler and awards graduate Esmeralda “Vita” Blanco with the Community College Presidents’ Scholarship

VANCOUVER — Clark College honored its 83rd graduating class at the 2019 Clark College Commencement ceremony held Thursday evening (June 20) at the Sunlight Supply Amphitheater. Approximately 2,500 degrees and certificates were conferred on the next generation of our community’s workers, leaders, and scholars.

Highlights from this year’s ceremony include:

  • Approximately 850 graduates participated in the commencement ceremony—a record number for the college.
  • This year’s graduating class included 427 Running Start graduates.
  • The student speaker was Associate of Science degree recipient Soukaina Ouahhabi.
  • The ceremony honored students graduating with their bachelor’s or associate degrees, as well as those earning certificates, high school diplomas, and/or GED completion.
  • This year’s commencement speaker was Port of Vancouver CEO and Clark College alumna Julianna Marler.
  • During the ceremony, Clark College President Robert K. Knight announced the names of the recipients of the 2019 Exceptional Faculty Awards: chemistry professor Dr. Karl Bailey; chemistry professor Nadine Fattaleh; communication professor Deena Godwin; librarian Zachary Grant; economics instructor Malcolm McCay; and health and physical education professor Erin Staples.
  • Graduate Esmeralda “Vita” Blanco was the recipient of the 2019-2020 Community College Presidents’ Award in Honor of Val Ogden. This annual scholarship is given to a Clark College graduate who demonstrates leadership potential, a commitment to community service, and academic achievement. The scholarship award provides full-time tuition at Washington State University Vancouver (WSUV) and is renewable for one additional year, essentially providing full tuition to complete a bachelor’s degree. See below for biographical information.
  • When graduates crossed the stage, the first name to be announced was Debbie Terry, who died in her final quarter of completing her Bachelor of Applied Science in Applied Management degree. Her daughter, Melanie Carter, accepted the post-humous degree in her memory.

About Esmeralda “Vita” Blanco

This year’s recipient of the Community College Presidents’ Award in Honor of Val Ogden was Esmeralda “Vita” Blanco, who graduated with an Associate of Applied Science in Business Administration. “At Clark College, [Vita] has truly found her voice,” said Clark College President Robert K. Knight in announcing the scholarship during the college’s 2019 Commencement ceremony. “Wherever she goes, people are touched by her enthusiasm and determination.”

Blanco did not have an easy path to college. The youngest of 27 siblings, she spent part of her youth homeless and dropped out of high school after the birth of her first daughter in order to work and support them both. In 2016, now a single mother of two teen-aged daughters, Blanco decided to risk leaving her job in order to enroll in the High School 21-Plus program at Clark College, which is designed for adults earning their high school diplomas. Six months later, she received a standing ovation at Clark College’s 2016 commencement ceremony when she shared her story as a student speaker.

Blanco says that her experience in High School 21-Plus “lit a fire” within her to continue her education. She excelled in her college-level classes, making the Vice President’s List for her high GPA. She joined both the Entrepreneur Club and Phi Theta Kappa (the international honor society for two-year colleges) and became a Student Ambassador. Additionally, in January 2019 she was named a Transforming Lives Scholar by the Washington State Association of College Trustees. “My mantra is, ‘It’s never too late and you’re never too old for college,’” says Blanco. She plans to continue her education at WSUV by completing a bachelor’s degree in communications and public speaking.

About Clark College

Located in Vancouver’s Central Park and serving up to 12,000 students per quarter, Clark College is Southwest Washington’s largest public institution of higher education. The college currently offers classes at two satellite locations: one on the Washington State University Vancouver campus and one in the Columbia Tech Center in East Vancouver. Additionally, its Economic & Community Development program is housed in the Columbia Bank building in downtown Vancouver.

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