44th annual commencement marks rite of passage for college grads

Board president John Sheehan welcomes the Class of 2014 and its families and friends to the 44th annual Commencement Exercises held May 23. Photos by Laura Beaton
Laura Beaton
Staff Writer

A rite of passage for about 100 graduates of Feather River College took place May 23.

Women and men between the ages of 18 and 74 walked across the stage to receive associate degrees, certificates and congratulations as graduates of the Class of 2014.

Upward of 500 people attended the commencement to witness the graduates’ achievements at the only college in the county.

In his opening address, FRC’s president, Dr. Kevin Trutna, presented a number of interesting statistics to the families and friends that packed the gym.

One hundred ninety students received 226 degrees and 40 certificates; 22 earned two, seven earned three, nine earned four, one earned five and one outstanding graduate, Alexa Lazenby, earned an AA degree in business in addition to nine certificates

Trutna’s remarks focused on the need for freedom of speech in light of recent high-profile incidents of commencement speakers who canceled after students and faculty protested. Additionally, Trutna encouraged graduates to “wag more, bark less,” and to live life with abandon

Commencement speaker The commencement speaker was Dr. Marc Johnson, president of the University of Nevada, Reno. Johnson challenged students to recall the Declaration of Independence, particularly the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Johnson noted that many advances have been made since Abraham Lincoln declared, “We must free the slaves or ourselves be subdued,” in 1862.

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 freed all slaves in America.

The women’s suffrage movement gave women the right to vote in 1920 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits discrimination in voting.

These laws brought greater equality and freedom to all United States citizens, but Johnson said there are still unfilled promises yet to be met.

Faculty speaker

Dr. Michael Bagley was selected by graduating students as the faculty speaker, and began his speech by disclosing that he is a first-generation high school and college graduate. He said his mother graduated from fifth grade and his father from 10th grade.

Bagley described his “roadmap to success,” which began with zero, the number of people who have ever lived without failing.

He said the number one relates to our ability to make just one first impression, so be sure to make it good. As for number two, he said give people a second chance.

“Don’t believe the myth that bad things come in clusters of three,” Bagley said. “That is a clustering illusion statistical fallacy.”

He told students that if they fall down seven times, get up eight times.

He ended his speech with letters: GE. He asked students what those letters meant to them and they replied, “Golden Eagles (the college mascot).” Bagley went on to discuss multiple other meanings of the letters GE, including general education, great expectations and genuine emotions.

Student speaker

Ricardo Archundia, 22, was chosen by the student body to give the student address. Before he told his story, he said his goal in speaking was to inspire all those present to “chase after your dreams.”

Archundia immigrated with his family to Stockton from Mexico when he was 7 years old. He related how difficult it was at school not knowing any English.

By seventh grade his family had a house, a dog, a couple vehicles and both his parents had jobs. They were living the American Dream.

Then, when he was 13, his mother left home. His father began drinking heavily and that’s when Archundia’s bad decisions got him into trouble.

He began taking drugs, dropped out of school and ended up in juvenile hall. Then came foster care, running away and homelessness before Archundia turned himself in. At that point, on the brink of prison, he realized he did not want to live his life that way.

Faced with being an undocumented alien after graduating from Plumas Charter School while living and working at the Wood’n’Rose Café in Chilcoot, Archundia struggled to climb out of the hole he was in.

He had no ID, making everything even more difficult. He credits Kelly Holland, his Independent Living Program counselor, for helping him climb out of that hole and forge a life for himself.

Close to his 21st birthday, Archundia finally received his permanent status in the U.S. He’d been working the graveyard shift at Safeway for over two years and taking classes at FRC.

Now Archundia has emerged triumphant, with an AA transfer degree in administration of justice, high honors. His 3.57 grade-point average is just 0.03 points away from highest honors. He’ll be moving to Chico this summer to attend Chico State.

Student success

Entire families, including those with four generations present, gathered at the college May 23 to bask in the academic and personal achievements of their loved ones who graduated.

Students promenaded into the arena as “Pomp and Circumstance” played, the crowd cheering and clapping.

After the speeches concluded, each graduate received his or her diploma from President Trutna before walking across the stage. As they proceeded, their achievements and degrees were announced by Dr. Chris Connell while congratulations from faculty and the board of trustees was given.

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