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Class of 2022 celebrated at Columbia State commencement | Education

Columbia State Community College celebrated 283 degree and certificate candidates as they crossed the stage during the commencement ceremony in the Webster Athletic Center Saturday.

Dr. Janet F. Smith, Columbia State president, opened the ceremony by welcoming degree and certificate candidates, faculty, staff and guests.

“Today is a special day for several reasons,” Smith said. “First and foremost, it is a day of celebration of accomplishments. It is a day of recognition that these soon-to-be graduates set a goal and accomplished it.”

Smith introduced alum James Washington as the guest speaker for the spring commencement ceremony.







Columbia State alum and spring 2022 commencement speaker James Washington.




Washington earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in computer information technology in December 2018. He is currently an associate computer systems analyst at Northrop Grumman Corporation and has his own IT business, Jwash Computer Fixins’.

He was one of the first Columbia State students to participate in an internship with the Tractor Supply Company via a special capstone class. He then went on to attend the University of Alabama in Huntsville to earn a bachelor’s degree in information systems with a concentration in cybersecurity and information assurance.

Washington began by thanking the college for the opportunity to speak and congratulated the Class of 2022. He then reflected on his time at Columbia State and the uncertainty he felt as a student about his future.

“Some of you may share the same thoughts and feelings of uncertainty, but my message today reassures you to not be afraid; it is OK not to know sometimes,” Washington said. “It is OK to go with the flow of things, because life is more fun that way.”

Washington urged students to find the path that best suits them, whether that be through obtaining a bachelor’s degree, joining the workforce or becoming an entrepreneur.

“As I am sure you are all aware, the Great Resignation resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing us to reevaluate how we are treated in all aspects of life,” Washington said. “You should not have to put up with disrespect, lack of pay or insufficient career growth to pursue the American Dream. Even if you are in a situation where going to school is the best option for you at this time, never lose sight of what you are passionate about. Do not live to work; work to live.”

Washington closed his address with a piece of advice to the graduates.

“Don’t let this be the only time you are a part of history,” he said. “Whether you participate in a protest, start an organization, donate to a good cause or start something never done before, keep adding to your impressive skillset and continue to be a part of history.”

Closing the ceremony, the alumni induction of new graduates was presented at the 9 am ceremony by Kellie Gwin, Columbia State alum and administrative secretary for student affairs, and Sandra Wall, Gwin’s mother and spring 2022 graduate. At the 11:30 am ceremony, the graduates were inducted by Matthew Lewis, Columbia State alum and financial aid director, and Alena Daniel, spring 2022 graduate.

President’s Leadership Society graduates were also honored with a medallion at the commencement ceremony.

“The establishment of this society was based on the belief that leadership is inherent in our lives and that we all have leadership roles,” Smith said. “The President’s Leadership Society is open to all students at Columbia State and requires only their commitment to involvement for learning, participation and helping others.”

Formed in spring 2011, PLS is a free leadership training program focused on developing a student’s unique leadership skills from their first semester through graduation. The program focuses on participation in college-sponsored programs that promote educational attainment, career choices, volunteerism and civic responsibility.

During the course of the program, students will attend a leadership retreat, enjoy exposure to the arts, participate in workshops and campus life, develop civic understanding and give back to the community through volunteerism.

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