They enrolled. They acquired knowledge. They practiced skills. They worked tirelessly day after day to balance school and jobs and family life. And today, they graduated—the Rogue Community College (RCC) class of 2019. Pride is bursting from every corner of every campus.
RCC’s 48th Commencement was held June 15 at 5 p.m. in the Bi-Mart Amphitheater at the Jackson County Expo amid crowds of supporters, staff and fellow students. A GED graduation ceremony was held at noon for the 72 students who earned their GED diploma this year.
RCC conferred a total of 584 degrees and 312 certificates to 720 students; 118 students completed more than one degree or certificate. Eighteen students earned a perfect 4.0 GPA. The graduates range in age from 17 to 68. The average age of students completing an associate degree is 30.
For the first time in RCC history, both ceremonies were streamed online for family and friends who could not attend. Archives of the video are available on the RCC YouTube channel, youtube.com/RogueCCVideos.
Three graduates were selected to represent this year’s class with special messages for their peers. Let’s get to know them.
Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer—Sustainable Community Development Focus Award
Heather Hanson enrolled in RCC as a non-traditional student—the first step toward her long-term goal of earning a law degree. She is passionate about social justice for animals, and next fall she will transfer to Southern Oregon University to complete a bachelor’s in history with hopes to eventually enroll in the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School.
“I’m so thankful that our community has access to RCC,” Heather said. “It allowed me to slowly get back into the routine of attending school after 18 years at a pace I was gradually able to increase as my confidence grew.”
Heather’s primary concerns in going back to school were finances and time. With a flexible part-time job, scholarships and the ability to take courses online in addition to classes on campus, she was able to conquer those obstacles and maintain a perfect 4.0 grade-point average.
Heather credits her RCC instructors, advisors and staff for encouraging her to achieve more than she dreamed she was capable of. “I can’t say enough about what a complete blessing the positive influence and support I have received has been,” she said. “With faith and perseverance, I feel greatly prepared and inspired to continue and succeed in my scholastic endeavors to practice animal law. I am excited to continue on this journey and know my future career will be thoroughly rewarding.”
Associate of Science—Human Services
Stephanie McGary is no stranger to obstacles. As a non-traditional student with a disability (she is legally blind), the Medford mom and grandmother was prepared to face challenges. However, add an elbow fracture her first year at RCC followed by a devastating house fire her second year, plus an ongoing battle with clinical depression, and many people would have considered giving up. Not Stephanie.
“I know I could have stopped my education at any point during these challenges,” she said. “However, it isn’t in my nature to give up, so I pushed through and came out triumphant.”
As a natural-born helper, Stephanie pursued a degree in human services not only because it suits her passions, but also because she has been the recipient of community assistance and benefits, and she believes it’s important to pay those forward. Following graduation, she will work as a gambling counselor at Addictions Recovery Center in Medford, where she plans to focus on building meaningful relationships with her co-workers and serving people in need.
Stephanie is an advocate for higher education, especially for people facing obstacles. “Just do it. I had many people tell me not to go to school, but I did,” she said. “If someone is feeling like they are unsupported by friends and family, I urge them to come to RCC anyway. You will find the support you need here, you will be challenged in positive ways, and the community you will become a part of is one of the best.”
Associate of Applied Science—Computer Support Technician
Michelle Welch is a repeat student. She first attended RCC 30 years ago and it left such a great impression, she came back—this time to embrace a program that hadn’t existed the first time around, or at least not in its current form: computer technology.
“I was tired of the computer getting the best of me,” Michelle said. So she chose to pursue a degree that would not just teach her to understand technology, but fuel a passion for it, too. “I’ve always liked technical things, and I loved the classes more and more as I took them,” she said.
Like many students, one of the challenges Michelle faced was how to fund her education. She is grateful for the student worker jobs that helped her pay for school while also gaining skills related to her degree program. “Working in the computer lab and Institutional Research has been rewarding,” Michelle said. “I certainly felt supported and pushed to excellence.”
As a mother of four, Michelle spent 25 years raising and educating her children. Now that they’re grown, she has enjoyed her chance to shine.
“There is no excuse not to come here to RCC,” she said. “There are ways to succeed around every corner. You will have to work at it, but there is help here for you. If I can come back after being out of the workforce for 25 years, I think anyone can.”