BOCES honors 2019 graduates

Career and College Readiness Coordinator Diane White shares a hug with Aracely Meraz-Mendoza, recipient of the first-ever BOCES Student Leadership Award, during the BOCES graduation ceremony. (HERALD PHOTO/Sheila McGuire)

EVANSTON — “Today is a milestone on your path to success because success is not an end point but a journey,” said Rocky Mountain Power Regional Business Manager Ron Wild, featured speaker at the 2019 Uinta BOCES No. 1 graduation ceremony held on Saturday, May 18, at Davis Middle School. 

Wild addressed his comments to the 30 graduates who participated in the graduation ceremony from various programs, including high school equivalency (HSE), the BOCES Families Becoming Independent work training program and Western Wyoming Community College (WWCC). 

Mike Williams, BOCES Executive Director, opened the morning ceremony by thanking the community and partners for the support that allows residents to participate in the multiple programs offered at BOCES. He said people may not be aware that through partnerships with the University of Wyoming, Western Governors’ University and Utah State University, people can earn bachelor’s degrees without ever leaving Evanston. Williams then introduced speaker Wild, noting Wild’s passion and contributions to the community over many years. 

Heidi Currutt, WWCC Evanston Outreach Coordinator, said there were 19 Evanston graduates of WWCC this year, including three who participated in the graduation ceremony. Beth Stephens, WWCC Instructor of Nursing, focused particular attention on the nursing outreach program that allows outreach students the same opportunities as those afforded to students on campus in Rock Springs. 

Diane White, coordinator of the BOCES Career and College Readiness Center (CCRC), said CCRC graduates include high school equivalency, English language learners and work training programs. White said many CCRC students enter BOCES doors feeling overwhelmed, having been through multiple struggles in the past, and noted the commitment of all BOCES staff and community partners in supporting and helping those students succeed. 

Michele Thompson, graduating from WWCC with an associate’s degree in nursing, said her journey as a non-traditional student would not have been possible without the distance learning opportunities that allowed her to be a full-time parent while attending school. Thompson said thanks to financial support in the form of scholarships through BOCES she had completed the nursing program without a single student loan. 

Renae Sowders, valedictorian of the adult education program, spoke about her decision to enroll in BOOST (BOCES Opportunity for Self-Sufficiency Training) program for students aged 16-24. Sowders said BOOST helped her turn her life around and enrolling in the program had been a great decision. 

White announced some special awards for high school equivalency students, noting how much the HSE exam had increased in difficulty in recent years, now requiring algebra, geometry and trigonometry. Students named to the National Adult Education Honor Society for their outstanding work ethic and determination included John Ashmore-Davis, Kody Handy, Phyllis Singer and Jae Townsend. 

The Learner of the Year Award, which White explained is not given every year but is instead awarded when staff recognize the significant challenges overcome by a student, was given to Kenzie Sohil. White described Sohil as one of those students “who surprise themselves with how well they do.” 

White then said this year BOCES staff wanted to acknowledge a student who “turned out to be such an inspiration we had to create a new award.” Aracely Meraz-Mendoza was awarded the Student Leadership Award. White said Meraz-Mendoza not only completed the ELL program, she went on to complete the HSE program and then continued coming to class even after she finished to help her classmates complete it as well. 

Finally, Williams, White and Nicole Espy of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, a primary partner of the BOOST program, recognized BOCES adult education teacher Carol Bourland. Williams said over the past 10 years since BOOST was created, there have been more than 200 students. More than 95 percent of them have graduated from the program and more than 95 percent of those who complete it have gone on to college or the workforce. 

Williams, noting that prior to the BOOST program the success rate for young students aiming to complete the HSE exam was abysmally low, said, “Carol is the common denominator for that high success rate.”

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