SPSCC celebrates record number of graduates

More than 2,000 degrees, certificates and diplomas were awarded Friday at South Puget Sound Community College’s commencement ceremony.

Kristine Cook, 23, of Lacey, shared her thoughts as she waited to graduate with her classmates from SPSCC’s early childhood education program.

“Finally,” she said. “So happy.”

Like many two-year and technical programs in the country, the Olympia-based college has seen an uptick in enrollment the past few years thanks largely to the unstable economy. Many colleges have reported higher enrollment by students who traditionally would have attended four-year universities but can’t afford it, and workers seeking new skills for stable jobs.

The class of 2014 was the largest graduating cohort in SPSCC’s 51-year history, according to president Timothy Stokes.

More than 1,300 associate degrees and about 625 certificates were awarded. In addition, 72 students earned their high school diplomas, and 319 earned GEDs.

“Take a moment and remember those who helped you get here,” Stokes said, noting that parents, spouses, children, community members, teachers and fellow students likely played a role in that success. “…Remember these people, and know that you will be an inspiration for someone else.”

Many of the members in the class of 2014 were nontraditional or returning college students, like Carla Smith, 42, of Olympia.

Four years ago, she lost her job as director of a now defunct preschool center in Lakewood.

“When the economy kind of took a plunge, people lost their jobs, and they no longer could afford to take their children there,” she said.

Smith enrolled in SPSCC’s administrative services and medical billing program.

As a single mom with three kids, it wasn’t easy to juggle family life, a full-time class schedule and homework, she told her classmates during the ceremony.

“I never let anyone discourage me from my goal,” Smith said. “… If I can do it, you can too.”