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SLCC’s 2020 and 2021 Graduates Encouraged to “Take Every Chance as an Opportunity “ at Special Commencement Ceremony

SLCC held an in-person commencement ceremony for its Class of 2021, which comprised 3,634 graduates, and 2020 graduates who wanted to walk the stage because they were denied the chance last year due to the pandemic.

Salt Lake Community College celebrated more than 3,600 graduates from the class of 2021 Friday during its commencement ceremony at the Maverik Center in West Valley City.

This year’s event, which included the use of extra safety precautions due to the ongoing pandemic, also served to honor SLCC’s 2020 graduates. With last year’s arrival of COVID-19, SLCC was forced to move its 2020 commencement exercises online, but the college extended to its 2020 graduates the opportunity to walk the stage at the college’s 2021 ceremony.

SLCC’s class of 2021 is comprised of 3,634 graduates, including 1,611 who are first-generation college students and 143 who are military veterans. The graduates ranged in age from 15 to 68, and most earned degrees from the school’s general studies program followed by business, nursing, computer science, psychology and criminal justice.

“As we go our separate ways, let us use our experiences and knowledge to inspire future generations and innovations,” said Emily Hernandez Alzamora, outgoing SLCC student association president, during her opening remarks. “Do not take this chance for granted. Be the example to look up to, to teach our younger generation that anything is possible if you believe it to be and that the only person holding you back is yourself.”

Salt Lake Community College alumnus and current chief administrative officer for Humana, Timothy S. Huval, encouraged students to be present for each other and help one another. “You have an unbelievable, exciting journey in front of you,” said Huval. “I can promise you, you will have a lot of good days, and there will be some bad days. Look at them as chances. Try to give back every chance you get, and, please, please, don’t take one second for granted – take every chance as an opportunity.”

For his address, Huval drew upon his experience of falling ill with a debilitating sickness in 2018 and his subsequent year-long recovery. Through the process he gained greater appreciation for life and its myriad opportunities to connect with others.

SLCC President Dr. Deneece G. Huftalin also addressed the graduates. “I am so proud of our students’ passion and commitment. Throughout the past year, you continued to develop innovative and creative solutions through civic and community-engaged service and outreach,” Huftalin told graduates. “You did not do this work alone. You also had the tireless support of faculty who share your commitment to our communities.”

During the ceremony, SLCC also awarded Jerald and Edna Taylor and Terry L. Grant honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degrees. Jerald is the founder and former president of Taylor Electric, and Edna is a former KSL television host. Jerald is also an alumnus of SLCC’s forerunner, the Salt Lake Technical Trade Institute, and has long supported the college’s workforce education programs. Grant is a former president of Key Bank’s Utah market and a strong supporter of SLCC’s PACE program, which helps high school students navigate a path to college with the aid of scholarships.

SLCC also honoured Senator Kirk Cullimore as the recipient of its 2021 Legislative Champion Award. The award recognizes Utah legislators who demonstrate a commitment to advancing higher education. During Utah’s most recent legislative session, Cullimore was a driving force in securing funding for SLCC’s Herriman Campus, which is scheduled to open in 2023.

Two former SLCC students received the school’s Distinguished Alumni Award. The award recognizes one alumnus and one alumna for significant contributions to their communities and professions. Davis M. Smith, CEO of outdoor equipment manufacturer Cotopaxi, and Christina Andino, a social worker for Magellan Health, were both recognized during Friday’s event. Since their time at SLCC, Smith has focused on building employment opportunities both locally and abroad through his Cotopaxi Foundation. Andino has become a fierce advocate for foster children through her volunteer work with FosterClub, a national network for foster youth.

Several faculty members were also acknowledged during the ceremony. Brett Terpstra, Jessica Robin Berryman and Dr. David F. Pack received this year’s Teaching Excellence Awards in recognition of their commitment to providing outstanding education. The college also named R. Adam Dastrup as its Distinguished Faculty Lecturer, an accolade recognizing quality work and a charge to develop that work into a public presentation over the course of an academic year.

Several students were also individually recognized with the college’s Graduates of Excellence Award, a prestigious distinction that recognizes hard work, commitment and selflessness. Honorees include Manisha Adhikari, Samuel Aguirre, Prabin Pandit, Lindsay Simons, Brock Smith, Amie Schaeffer and Rachel Santizo.

Salt Lake Community College is Utah’s largest open-access college, proudly educating the state’s most diverse student body in eight areas of study at 11 locations and online. The majority of SLCC graduates transfer to four-year institutions, and thousands more are trained in direct-to-workforce programs. In 2023, the institution will celebrate 75 years of providing Utahns with education and training in high-demand fields that directly contribute to the state’s vibrant economy and high quality of life.

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