Although students experienced Commencement 2021 on June 17 differently for the second year in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it didn’t stop them from celebrating as they honored their hard work during an academic year like no other. Instead of packing the ShoWare Center, where Commencement has traditionally been held in past years, Commencement started out with hundreds of graduates coming together at a safe distance to pick up their diploma covers on campus. Upon arriving on campus for the Cross the Stage event, graduates were greeted by faculty and staff honking their horns in celebration before masked students and their families parked in the North parking lot, walked up to Building 8, and crossed the stage to pick up their diploma cover.
That evening, families again came together to watch Virtual Commencement at home. Together, in heart, they celebrated the college’s 2021 Commencement ceremony.
Approximately 380 students of 1,284 students who graduated in the 2020-21 academic year participated in the Cross the Stage event while 676 participated in the Virtual Commencement ceremony.
The college awarded the following credentials for the 2020–21 academic year:
- 1,284: total number of credentials (degrees, certificates and diplomas); some students earned more than one credential
- 977: two-year degrees, including 571 associate of arts degrees, 174 associate of science, 229 associate of professional-technical and three associate of applied science degrees
- 75: applied bachelor’s degrees
- 134: certificates
- 97: high school diplomas
The 2021 graduating class reflects the diversity of the college campus. Here are a few facts:
- 17: age of youngest graduate
- 71: age of oldest graduate
- 46: veterans who used VA education benefits while attending college
- 138: number of immigrants
- 22: number of refugees
- 65: number of international students, representing nine countries
- 63%: students of color (of the 727 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, Kayla Pezolano earned the honor.
Pezolano described the struggles she faced, including never having graduated from high school and on the verge of homelessness after the end of a relationship, before coming to Highline College to obtain her associate degree.
Since she enrolled, she’s not only found stable housing, but she’s also been on the president’s honor roll, graduated with her associate’s degree, and was awarded a scholarship to continue her studies at a prestigious university.
“No matter how many bumps may come across the road or detours you have to take, never let that stop you,” Pezolano said during Virtual Commencement. “And when you think that road has ended, trust that there is a new path waiting to emerge. And if it doesn’t, go out and look for it. There is no such thing as success without commitment.”
This year, a number of students earned top honors and achievements.
All-Washington Academic Team
Heidi Major and Purity earned statewide recognition and scholarships for their accomplishments as Highline College students this year.
The Covington and Seattle residents were honored as members of the 2021 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. Highline’s chapter of the honor society is called Pi Sigma.
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.
2021 Legacy Leader Awards
Alona Ishchenko, Inter-Cultural Center
Amaryah (AJ) Johnson, American Sign Language (ASL) Club
Analyn Narciso Unpingco, Highline College Paralegal Association
Anita Wambui, Global Student Ambassadors
Autumn Simpson, Service and Mentorship Engagement
Dakota Evans, Comedy Club
Dean Winegar, Comedy Club
Edith Hughes, Cru
Faith Wilson, Cru
Fidelia Hernandez Guzman, TRIO
Hailey Elaine Kramlich, Respiratory Care
Hector Pina, Associated Students of Highline College
Heydie Martinez, Student Employee of the Year
Heydie Martinez, Transition Success Center
Isabella Anderson, Thunderword
Jarmaine Santos, Associated Students of Highline College
Jasen Meyers, Center of Excellence for Global Trade & Supply Chain Management
Jehnoah M. Wingo, Community Leadership Consultant
Joseph Plummer, Video Anything Club
Kayla Pezolano, CLS & CCIE Student of the Year
Lelania Youridise Rodda, Active Minds
Lillian Tran, PHATT Club (Physicists of Highline – Association of Thinkers & Tinkerers)
Margaret M Annoh, HOST
Mario Vidal, Thunderword
Marissah Bañuelos, AANAPISI
Meghan Koester, Cyber Competition Club
Mercedes Traeger, Disney Movie Club
Patrick Pugh, Achieve
Paul Fernando King-Sanchez , Disney Movie Club
Randa Alane, Community Leadership Consultant
Sabir Khan Ghafoori, TRIO
Samantha Sebring, Community Budget Coordinator
Sarah Beth Wood, Highline College Paralegal Association
Seini Vuli, Marketing Outreach Design Team
Sereen Alhaj, Arabic Club
Tessa L. Hunt, CLS & CCIE Student of the Year
Thy Mai Ngo, Community Resource Consultant
Vincent Cuanan, Video Anything Club
Yamamah Abdulhameed, Arabic Club
Zahraa Obuli, Achieve Peer Navigator
Zebaakhtar Ghanchi, Career Services (CASE)
2021 Legacy Scholar Awards
Ellie Wagner, Communication Studies
Ericka Felicitas, Global Programs
Hang Thai, Respiratory Care
Jensen Chen, Achieve
Joan F Maina, Business Department
Jonah Mizrahi, Journalism
Juli Hammond, Business Technology Department
Leenaben Pagdar, Computer Science
Michika Fukumori, Global Programs
Mohammed Alogaidi, HOST
Richard Nguyen, Computer Science
Samuel Watson, Journalism
Sierra Nicole Farmer, English Department
Stephanie Pena, Business Technology Department
Ta’Zauhna’ K. Chase, Business Department