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1,300+ Students Graduate With Degrees, Diplomas and More

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2020-06-29T15:39:18+00:00 June 29, 2020|Featured News, News|
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1,300+ Students Graduate With Degrees, Diplomas and More

  • diploma drive-thru 2020

Graduating students celebrated Commencement 2020 a little differently this year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of packing the ShoWare Center, where Commencement is usually held, the day started out with hundreds of graduates coming together at a safe distance to pick up their diploma covers on campus. Upon arriving at the Diploma Cover Drive-Thru event, graduates were greeted by faculty and staff honking their horns in celebration before they were gifted groceries by the Emergency Feeding Program. President John Mosby then personally congratulated each graduate while presenting them their diploma cover.

That evening families came together to watch virtual Commencement at home on June 11. Together, in heart, they celebrated the college’s 2020 Commencement ceremony.

Approximately 570 students of 1,388 students who graduated in the class of 2020 participated in the virtual Commencement ceremony.

Highline College faculty and staff congratulate graduates during the Diploma Cover Drive-Thru on June 11.

Highline College faculty and staff congratulate graduates during the Diploma Cover Drive-Thru on June 11.

As is typical at other colleges and universities, students at Highline apply to graduate before all coursework has been completed. The college expects to award the following credentials for the 2019–20 academic year:

  • 1,659: total number of credentials (degrees, certificates and diplomas); some students earned more than one credential
  • 1,143: two-year degrees, including 674 associate of arts degrees, 169 associate of science, and 300 associate of applied science degrees
  • 76: applied bachelor’s degrees
  • 170: high school diplomas
  • 37: GED diplomas

The 2020 graduating class reflects the diversity of the college campus. Here are a few facts:

  • 17: age of youngest graduate
  • 75: age of oldest graduate
  • 53: veterans who used VA education benefits while attending college
  • 208: number of immigrants
  • 51: number of refugees
  • 142: number of international students, representing 15 countries
  • 60%: students of color (of the 1,388 students reporting their race/ethnicity)
  • 65%: female graduates

One key component of Commencement each year is choosing a student speaker. While many apply, only one is selected. This year, Melissa O’day earned the honor.

O’day described the struggles she faced, including surviving a brain tumor and the loss of her grandmother, before coming to Highline College to attain her personal fitness trainer certificate at age 38.

Prior to that, she had pursued a bachelor’s degree in business administration, and a quarter of culinary school.

“It’s OK to change what you’re passionate about, even if it’s in the middle of life,” O’day said.

This year, a number of students earned top honors and achievements.

Photo of Asutosh Upreti and Hamse Igge

Asutosh Upreti and Hamse Igge were selected as this year’s All-Washington Academic Team members from Highline College.

All-Washington Academic Team

Asutosh Upreti and Hamse Igge earned statewide recognition and scholarships for their accomplishments as Highline College students this year.

The Des Moines and Kent residents were honored as members of the 2020 All-Washington Academic Team as part of their academic achievements.

Each of the state’s 34 community and technical colleges can nominate up to four students for the award, however, only the top two are chosen.

To qualify, students must apply for recognition and be members of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

Highest Scholastic Achievement Award

This year, 271 students graduated with honors with GPAs of 3.5 and above, and 7 of those had a perfect 4.0 GPA, qualifying them as Highest Scholastic Achievement scholars.

Photo of Highline College President John Mosby with Associate Students of Highline College President Mohamed Jama and family.

Highline College President John Mosby with ASHC President Mohamed Jama during the Diploma Cover Drive-Thru event.

The Highest Scholastic Achievement Award is presented each year to the graduating student — or students — who has attained the highest GPA and who has completed all degree requirements by the end of the spring quarter of the academic year of graduation. This year, those students are:

  • Thu Ho
  • Haein Lee
  • Alicia Nguyen
  • Stephanie Pangillinan
  • Annie Tieu
  • Tuan Tran
  • Seth Williams

Honors Program Graduates

During the 2019–20 academic year, 11 students challenged themselves to graduate as Honors Scholars as part of their participation in Highline’s Honors Program. These students completed at least 25 to 30 honors option credits, depending upon their degree, all while maintaining a minimum 3.5 GPA. In addition, they showed their dedication to the campus community by serving as club and student government leaders, participating in service learning, and much more:


Kiana Rose Nakaya – Bachelor of Applied Science in Elementary Education
Hanna Haile – Associate in Business
Caitlin Anderson – Associate of Science in Chemistry
Bhawya Bedi – Associate of Science in Computer Science
Shaima Saleh – Associate in Education
Cynthia Wambui – Associate of Science in Engineering

Sofia Sednef – Associate in Music Performance
Melissa Wilson – Associate in Music Theatre
Honoka Yonekura – Associate in Music Therapy
Jennifer Kyule – Associate of Science in Pre-Nursing
Solomiya Zynych – Associate of Science in Pre-Nursing

Student Legacy Awards

A number of students received recognition for high achievement (Legacy Scholar Awards) and contributions to campus programs, services and activities (Legacy Leader Awards). While some of these students are graduating this year, others will return.

2020 Legacy Leader Awards


Pietro Durante, Achieve
Dean Winegar, Achieve Peer Navigators
Paul Fernando King-Sanchez, Achieve Peer Navigators
Amaryah Johnson, American Sign Language (ASL) Club
Faris Faris, Arabic Club
Randa Alane, Arabic Club
Mohamed Jama, Associated Students of Highline College
Sreynin (Lyn) Sam, CLS/CCIE Student of the Year
Cameron Sarrett, Business Club
Jasen Meyers, Business Club
Shirin Niazmohammadi, Career Services (CASE)
Grayce Ross, Student Employee of the Year
Jessica Morales, Community Leadership Consultant
Mi Chung, Community Leadership Consultant
Anh Che, Community Resource Consultant
Hasan Hasan, Computer Science Club
Marcella Huang, Computer Science Club
Katherine Marroquin, Cooking Club
Selia Sosa, Cooking Club

Melissa Wilson, Cru Club
Dani Nguyen, Global Student Ambassadors
Lingxi Adres, Hospitality & Tourism Management
Cesar Madrigal, Inter-Cultural Center Peer Facilitator
Maya Santos, Marketing Outreach Design Team
Samira Rodol, Marketing Outreach Design Team
Ebony Dixon-Padilla, Moms Elevated
Aisha Osman, Public Speaking Center
Claudia Crock, Public Speaking Center
Chen Biyao, Respiratory Care Club
Christopher S. Ponce, Student Veterans of America at Highline College
Michael Kimball, Students Allied For Israel
Joshua Denneny, Theme Story Club
Joshua Foster, Theme Story Club
Isabella Anderson, Thunderword
Heydie Martinez Gonzalez, Transition Success Center
Phuong Toles, Transition Success Center
Christopher S. Ponce, TRIO Student Support Services
Helena Haideni Ochoa, TRIO Student Support Services

2020 Legacy Scholar Awards


Raven Moody, Achieve
Ghislain Akouta, Business Department
Losili E. Calderon, Business Department
Zoe Williams, Communication Studies
Jaykant P. Hirpara, Computer Science
Julian Burrington, Computer Science
Pi Peng Chen, Hospitality & Tourism Management
Aline Valiente, Journalism

Caleb Ruppert, Journalism
Abdullahi Mahdi, Mathematics Department
Tran Luu, Mathematics Department
Carerra Titus Kariuki, Model UN
Tyree Jackson, Model UN
Angelina Bednaruk, Respiratory Care Department
Larin Miller, Respiratory Care Department