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Ilisagvik College honors 2014 graduates

May 9th, 2014 | By Elise Patkotak Print this article   Email this article  

This year's Iḷisaġvik College Graduation Ceremony was held on April 25. The 19th commencement exercise for the college saw 11 associates degrees, 68 certificates and 19 GEDs awarded to students from around the state and country.

The audience heard from two graduating students who expressed their unique views on what that education has meant for them. Student speaker Tiffiny Angelica San Andres spoke about the myriad ways that inspiration can come to anyone, and how that inspiration can set you on an exciting new life path.

"Three years ago I was getting by in life. I had a good job with the Iḷisaġvik College Adult Basic Education program, went home every day just like everyone else and tried to provide for my family from a distance. You could say that I had an average life. But deep down inside I wanted more; I just didn't admit it to myself or to anyone around me... It wasn't until I spoke to my older brother Michael that I realized what I truly wanted in life: an education. But not just any education. I wanted something that was going to take me far and open doors to my true calling."

The second student speaker, Simon Simeona Aina, initiated his connection with Iḷisaġvik when he earned his GED through the college. Soon after, he became employed at the college as a Transportation Specialist and eventually moved up to Student Support Specialist and Residential Advisor in the student dormitories.

In his speech, Simon gave this secret to success: "I am often asked by students how it is that I am able to take up a full load of coursework and work fulltime. My answer is simple. I do it very carefully and with a smile. But in all honesty there are three factors that are the backbone to my ability to succeed in both work and school. Those three factors are: co-workers/friends, siblings, and my parents."

Following Aina's speech, Student Government President Gunner Wheeldon introduced Commencement Speaker Jeannie Greene, producer and creator of Heartbeat Alaska, an award-winning television program which spotlights Native peoples and rural communities of Alaska. Greene used her speech to urge students to create kindness in the world.

"I remember smiling at the wonder of it all and something inside me began to bloom," she said. "I knew that somehow I would be helping others one way or the other, forevermore."

Greene went on to explain that what she was most of all was a storyteller and that through her stories, others were able to share their lives and cultures. "If someone were to sum up who I am I would say that I am by profession, a story teller. I have found my niche and it is telling the stories of others. Some would say that I am a messenger, allowing others to tell their stories ... . I submit to you that we are all storytellers."

Following Greene's address, President Brower introduced Caitlin Walls, Iḷisaġvik's American Indian College Fund Faculty of the year. Walls is an assistant professor of English at the College whose passions include composition, writing and literature.

Brower addressed the graduates, urging them to continue to learn throughout their lives and to not think of graduation as an ending, but rather a beginning.

"The work you've done to get you here today is just the first step on a long and fascinating journey in which learning should never stop." She urged graduates to always keep the flame of learning alive within themselves as a way of keeping their minds young and fresh no matter how old their bodies might get. She ended by congratulating "each and every one of you for taking this first step on your exciting journey through life. The Iḷisaġvik College family is so very proud of what you've achieved and so very excited at the thought of what you will achieve in the future. You are the fulfillment of our promise to support local control and self-sustainability for our region. To always do our best for our families, culture and community. I commend you and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for each of you."

After the presentation of degrees, certificates and GED's, President Brower introduced Rex Tuzroyluk of Point Hope as the 2014 Alumnus of the Year. Tuzroyluk pursued his AAS degree in Associated Construction Trades at Iḷisaġvik and graduated in 2005. After graduating, he worked with the College's Maintenance department while he studied and obtained his Class A unrestricted CDL license in the spring of 2008. Currently, Tuzroyluk holds a permanent position with ASRC Energy Services and works on-slope as a Heavy Equipment Operator in Prudhoe Bay. Tuzroyluk is an excellent example of the theme of President Brower's message that learning does not end upon graduation.

The commencement exercises concluded with a benediction offered by Rev. Dr. Duke Morrow of the Ukpeagvik Presbyterian Church in Barrow. Immediately following the ceremony, entertainment was provided to the mingling crowd by the College's Inupiaq Songs, Dances and Drumming class, instructed by Fannie Akpik. It was a joyous evening, celebrated and enjoyed by all.

For more information about Iḷisaġvik College, visit the Web at, or call: 1.800.478.7337, ext, 1799.


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