Western Nevada College News
WNC Fallon Grads Encouraged to Become ‘Influencers’
May 25, 2023
Whether they were receiving an associate degree, bachelor’s degree or an associate degree through the Jump Start College, graduates in Western Nevada College’s Class of 2023 in Fallon enjoyed one of the perks of their commitment to higher education on Thursday.
For the first time in nearly a decade, Western’s Fallon grads enjoyed a traditional ceremony in Barkley Theatre in Oats Park Art Center. The traditional setting enabled the grads to invite more family members to celebrate their accomplishments after the health pandemic prompted college officials to use a drive-through format the past three years.
“Getting to have a stage and have a full pomp and circumstance certainly makes it special,” said WNC English Instructor Katie Jones, who introduced all of the graduates to the crowd. “I could see some students who already graduated who wanted to do the full commencement this time. A lot of graduation ceremonies get a bad rap for being super long and laborious for everyone to sit through, but I like how we were able to be here to celebrate.”
The ceremony marked WNC’s second of the two commencement celebrations this week to honor 500 graduates who earned 529 degrees and Certificates of Achievement.
Some of the graduates overcame many obstacles to earn their degrees.
WNC Administrative Assistant Desirae Blunt, a mother of three, graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Organization and Project Management.
Kathryn Whitaker provides the commencement address.
“I’ve waited years to do this and I’m glad I could do it in front of my kids,” said Blunt, who is the first person in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Blunt said that she became pregnant with her first child while in high school and “I never thought I’d get here.” All three of her children are teenagers, including her oldest, Makenna, who will graduate from Churchill County High School on Friday night. “I’m really proud.”
She credited her family, WNC and students for making her dream possible.
“Having a really good support system really helped me,” said Blunt, who started her pathway into higher education by earning her GED through WNC’s six-week adult education bootcamp.
Suzanna Stankute, WNC student government president for 2022-23, could have been talking about Blunt in her speech to the graduating class.
“Some of us have overcome incredible challenges along the way, determined to create a brighter future for ourselves and for our loved ones,” she said. “Today, as we don our graduation caps and gowns, let us not forget the significance of this achievement. We’ve conquered obstacles, juggled responsibilities and triumphed over adversity. Each of us is a testament to the power and resilience of the unwavering spirit that resides in each of us. Let us utilize the knowledge and skills that we’ve learned to make a positive impact in our communities, to uplift those that may be in need and to advocate the causes we hold dear. Our journey doesn’t end here!”
Ruben Alanis received an Associate of Business degree. He was inspired by the speakers, which also included WNC President Dr. J. Kyle Dalpe and Nevada System of Higher Education Regent Carol Del Carlo. One of them stood out to him.
NSHE Regent Carol Del Carlo fires up Fallon grads.
“I received a lot of inspiration from the ceremony, especially Kathryn’s speech; it provided us with tips for the future,” he said.
Kathryn Whitaker, WNC’s Outreach and Access Academic Advisor who started at Western 23 years ago, shared a powerful story about the tragic ending of her grandfather’s personal education but how he channeled that passion to help others.
Whitaker’s grandfather Clyde’s education ended abruptly after the eighth grade when his father died and he needed to care for his mother and three siblings. Yet, the importance of education never diminished for Clyde, serving on local school boards to support all students so they could receive the educational opportunities that eluded him.
After her story, Whitaker concluded by offering the graduates one strong piece of advice.
“Be an influencer, just like my grandfather. I’m not talking about being a social media influencer,” she said. “What I want you to do is be an influencer for good with the people that you personally interact with. No matter your opportunities and resources, you can always be an influencer for good. Be an influencer in your home by building healthy, loving relationships. Be an influencer among your peers and friends by demonstrating encouragement, kindness and compassion. Be an influencer in your workplace by doing your best work and supporting your co-workers. Be an influencer in your faith by loving your neighbors. Be an influencer in your community by being an informed voter and serving others.
“The daily impact you’ll have while personally interacting with others in a positive way will do far more to change the world than any grand gesture or achievement that you may earn.”
WNC graduate Desirae Blunt (left), daughter Makenna (center) and WNC Fallon Campus Director Jessica Rowe are photograhed after the commencement ceremony on Thursday in Fallon.