Salt Lake Community College honored its graduates of excellence and their guests with a ceremonial luncheon last Friday at the Taylorsville Redwood Campus.
Provost Clifton Sanders commenced the event and acknowledged the outstanding academic records and individual merits of each recipient. All of the honorees in attendance had personal hardships and aspirations that inspired SLCC faculty and administration.
“This has truly become one of the most inspirational traditions in my tenure as provost,” Sanders said before leading those present in a toast in their favor.
Around each table sat one of the seven graduates and member of the Senior Leadership Team or a dean from the school related to their major. Topics of conversation included personal stories, future careers and even light-hearted teasing, particularly from the parents of graduates.
The event was fully catered, with steak and pasta among the selections offered. Near the end of the meal, college representatives started offering words of praise for their honorees.
Eric Heiser, the dean of the School of Applied Technology & Technical Specialties, said his student, Jirapat Sakkaphun, is truly inspirational in a number of ways.
“If you want the textbook definition of lifelong learner, that be would Jirapat,” he said.
Born in Thailand, Sakkaphun went through a lot in her childhood, including her father’s death at the hands of the militant army in Bangkok. Despite this personal tragedy, she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees while living in her home country.
Not only has Sakkaphun been a teacher herself for more than a decade, but she also worked in the Thai Ministry of Education. At 79 years old, she will graduate from SLCC as a certified nursing assistant.
David Hubert, the assistant provost of Learning Advancement, shared the story of his graduate, Brooke Baxter.
Baxter, who was born in Bountiful, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder at the age of 21. It wasn’t until she gave herself an ultimatum — make a change or fall apart entirely — that she decided to attend college.
Baxter made the Dean’s list multiple times at SLCC and involved herself in researching social issues such as rape culture. She is currently a sociology major at the University of Utah and hopes to work in federal law enforcement.
Hubert believes the learning environment at SLCC helps students like Baxter achieve outstanding results.
“You combine a determined young person who’s facing some challenges with an institution like Salt Lake Community College, with dedicated faculty, and you get an excellent graduate,” he said.
The other honorees also have compelling life stories that can inspire others.
Megan Gardella, representing the School of Business, maintained an outstanding academic record while sometimes holding as many as three jobs. She plans to own and operate a food truck with her culinary arts degree.
Ermina Mustafic moved to California with her family in order escape the Bosnian genocide in the 1990s. After learning of a Bosnian community in Utah, her family relocated again and found prosperity. Mustafic will be attending the U. in the fall.
SLCC President Deneece Huftalin offered the closing remarks, imagining a future where each graduate would play an important role in their respective field.
Visit the SLCC Commencement website to read a personal statement from every graduate of excellence.