CPTC honors grads at 2023 commencement

By Jean Borst

Nearly 500 students from Clover Park Technical College’s two campuses joined together at the Tacoma Dome June 7 for the ultimate celebration. The CPTC 2023 Annual Commencement Ceremony was not only a time to honor academic success, but it was also an occasion to celebrate resilience and persistence.

“Many of our students have only known a college experience during a worldwide pandemic,” CPTC President Dr. Joyce Loveday said. “This year’s graduates have demonstrated tremendous grit, determination and strength to reach their goals.”

Riding a post-pandemic wave

“Last year’s commencement was all about emerging from the pandemic and it was super exciting because it was our first in-person ceremony in nearly three years,” said Jessica Wallack, CPTC Director of Student Life. “This year, the feeling was very similar. These graduates accomplished so much during a challenging time. They have a lot to be proud of.”

The event was especially celebratory for students who had their in-person high school graduation ceremonies nixed because of the pandemic.Here are highlights from this year’s commencement:

  • Once again this year, Shelly Kirk-Selvester kicked off the evening’s festivities with her rendition of the National Anthem. Kirk-Selvester is a 2023 graduate of CPTC’s Human Services program and a 2020 graduate of the Health Unit Coordinator program.
  • Student speaker Huong Ngo had some inspiring and uplifting words for her fellow grads. Ngo is a 2023 graduate of CPTC’s Esthetic Sciences program and also served on the college’s Health & Wellness Committee with the Associated Student Government.

She reflected on the many trials graduates faced during the pandemic, including adapting to remote and hybrid classes, surviving hours of Zoom calls, and doing whatever necessary to stay engaged and awake. “And when it was safe to return to in-person classes, we had to relearn how to interact with our peers and instructors,” Ngo said. “Socializing looked and felt completely different than it did before.”

Despite those obstacles, students persevered – with a little help. “We had the support of friends, family, instructors, advisors and our peers,” Ngo said. “Because of that support, I’m able to stand here today.”

  • 1000 Words Events was on hand to snap candid and posed photos throughout the commencement celebration. Graduates can download photos at no cost.
  • The recent MOSAIC Milestones Celebration, presented by the CPTC Office of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, celebrated the accomplishments of graduates who come from diverse cultural backgrounds. Those in attendance were given a cultural identity stole to wear to the commencement ceremony.
  • Graduation costs can be a burden. The annual Wear it Forward program ensures students have the regalia they need for half the expense. This year, CPTC’s Department of Student Life offered about 100 loaner gowns for grads. In addition, students who completed their bachelor’s degrees were given a free purple stole to signify their achievement.
  • For grads or their friends or family members who were unable to attend the ceremony in person, the commencement was live streamed on the CPTC website. You can watch the all the pomp and circumstance on YouTube and download photos for free at https://gallery.1000wordsevents.com/CPTC-Graduation-2023.

The Dome is home

Holding the ceremony at the Tacoma Dome ensured students could invite as many friends and family members as they wanted to the celebration, with ample parking available and no ticket required.

Beyond convenience, being able to celebrate a major life milestone at the iconic arena is a big deal for students and their families – and it almost didn’t happen this year. Scheduling conflicts with the venue forced the college to reschedule the event twice. When it came down to shifting the date or holding the ceremony at a smaller venue, the college surveyed students eligible to participate to find out what they wanted. The response was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the event at the Dome.

“It was really important that the students had a voice in this decision,” Wallack said. “It’s their celebration, after all.”