May 21, 2021 Rich Rezler
The Washtenaw Community College Spring 2021 Virtual Honors Convocation honored 507 high honors and honors graduate candidates in the Class of 2021 and 780 additional students who earned high honors during the Winter 2021 semester.
Two student speakers – Jesse Bishop and Abdul Kizito – joined WCC President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca, Executive Vice President of Instruction and Academic Affairs Dr. Kimberly Hurns and Board of Trustees chair William G. Milliken Jr. in presenting remarks to honorees and their guests. All speeches were videotaped at WCC’s Towsley Auditorium and presented in a video that premiered online on Thursday, May 20.
“In many ways, what you’ve accomplished in the time of a world-changing pandemic shows that you’re ready to face whatever comes next,” Bellanca told the honorees. “That is heartening to me. I think it bodes well for your future and I think it bodes well for the future of our community, our state and our country.”
Milliken spoke on behalf of the Board of Trustees, noting he and his colleagues were especially proud of the students’ accomplishments “in a time of such uncertainty, stress and disruption.”
“There will be a time when you look back and say to yourself, ‘I did it. I earned academic honors while my classroom was my kitchen table, my living room or my bedroom,’” Milliken said.
Jesse Bishop, a WCC Environmental Science graduate, spoke to his fellow students as a left ventricular assist device slung over his shoulder helped his heart pump blood to the rest of his body.
Born with Becker Muscular Dystrophy, Bishop was diagnosed with heart failure in December 2018 and has been on a heart transplant list ever since. His doctors encouraged him to pursue a college degree.
At WCC, Bishop joined the college’s STEM Scholar program and its chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa honors society. He plans to pursue a degree in Environmental Science from the University of Michigan and then study climatology in a graduate program.
“Finding your passion is the first step, next is your effort and the final and most important thing is knowing when you need to accept help from others,” Bishop said while sharing his secrets to success.
Kizito, a Liberal Arts Transfer graduate who intends to major in Social Theory and Practice at the University of Michigan, spoke of the difference between what society defines as “stars” and what makes a true “star.”
“Community college is a unique place to go to school. It’s a place full of stars. In one classroom you’ll meet a 30-year-old military vet knee-deep in economic theory trying to go into business. In another class, you’ll listen to an interesting conversation about race in America between a local Black Lives Matter activist and an aspiring police officer,” Kizito said. “In another class, you’ll read the beautiful words of a local chef who is trying to take his poetry to another level. You’ll be inspired by the 50-year-old lady with a bullet-proof determination to get that college degree. You’ll learn alongside students whose stories of surviving domestic violence will leave you in awe about the resilience and determination of people.”
Kizito concluded his speech by admitting WCC was not his first choice of college, but rather a place he ended up out of circumstance.
“But if it wasn’t for these past two years, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with writing. I wouldn’t have found the confidence to confront the uneasy parts of myself. I wouldn’t have met all these amazing people that don’t often get the recognition they deserve,” Kizito said. ”This degree means something, this time has meant something. And you should all be proud of what you’ve achieved. You’re all, by every definition, stars.”
WCC hosts two Honors Convocations each year to recognize students who have achieved high honors. The Winter Convocation, scheduled annually in January honors:
- All full-time (12 credits or more) Fall students receiving high honors (GPA 3.8 and above).
- All honors (GPA 3.5 to 3.79) and high honors (GPA 3.8 to 4.0) graduate candidates from December.
- All part-time (minimum of fifteen 15 credits over three specific semesters) students receiving high honors (GPA 3.8 and above).
The Spring Convocation, scheduled annually in May, honors:
- All full time (12 credits or more) Winter students (GPA 3.8 and above).
- All honors (GPA 3.5 to 3.79) and high honors (GPA 3.8 to 4.0) graduate candidates for May, June, and August.