As an educator for 30plus years, I look forward to this time of year — graduation and commencement exercises. Why? As an educator, it is so rewarding to see the fruits of your labor. At Hill College, we are in the “family business,” and we consider our students, “family.”
Just as we relish the excitement surrounding our own family members when they excel, accomplish goals, and start their careers, we also find ourselves getting caught up in the celebratory excitement surrounding our graduates. Just as with a family, we are afforded the privilege of hearing their stories about their families, siblings and jobs. We invest a great deal of time and energy into offering counseling, advising, tutoring and providing other services to help students succeed and move toward completion ... again, allowing the Hill College family to celebrate our students’ success. Our faculty invest daily imparting subject matter and working to expand student knowledge by helping them to think critically, learn to problem solve and begin thinking about the future.
Our Student Life Department gets to see the fun and lighter side of our students through offering cultural, extra-curricular activities and traditions throughout the year. This gives students an outlet and a balance to school, work, and play, and helps us to get to know our family of students.
Just before final exams, students had the opportunity to enjoy a week of Spring Fling activities such as a crawfish boil and a fishing tournament to mention a few, as well as academic award programs where their families were in attendance. All campuses recently experienced the largest crowds ever, as we celebrated students and their success. The Phi Theta Kappa honor society inducted over 70 students this spring, which is a record number of inductees and certainly remarkable for an institution of our size.
Never before have the words “student success” and “completion” had such a state and national focus. As community colleges embark on the pathways model, a statewide initiative toward finding ways to help students transition through secondary and post-secondary education in a more seamless and efficient manner, the purpose of graduation becomes even more meaningful to the Hill College family. We are proud of the fact that the number of certificates and degrees earned by our students continues to increase. Over 800 awards will be earned this year by Hill College students, an increase of almost 20 percent in two years. The Pathways Initiative puts Hill College at a place where we are already familiar and comfortable — front and center with the students, offering degree plans upon entry, as well as support services through the duration of, and alignment with university and career/workforce educational organizations to not only help students complete their educational goals, but also have aspirations beyond their
work with us. So, after much hard work on the part of faculty, staff and students, the big day arrives — graduation. In ceremonial fashion, with pomp and circumstance, honor chords, sashes and diplomas, these family members of ours walk across the stage robed in cap and gown, with their proud family sitting in the audience.
For faculty, staff and administrators of Hill College, this is not another day, and the students are not just a number. This is “Mary,” the first in her family to go to college, “Bob,” who lost his job and came to Hill for retraining in a new technical career field, “Allie,” who accumulated enough dualcredit hours in high school to graduate from high school and Hill College at the same time, and “David,” who never had an opportunity to attend college, now attends Hill College at the same time as his son, and sits in the same class with him.
These are not numbers walking across the stage, but our family, and we are so very proud to have played just a small part in their success. As the students walk across the stage, unlike many ceremonies, I make a special point to encourage the audience to yell and scream as loud as they can for their graduate. There will be no one cheering any louder than the Hill College family, who has been blessed with the opportunity to have touched lives in some way. Congratulations to all of our graduates for their accomplishments and hard work and to the families who have stood by and supported them along their journey.
Pam Boehm, Ed.D., is president of Hill College.