LEMOORE - Graduation season in Kings County began on Thursday as one of the area’s first commencement ceremonies was held at West Hills College Lemoore.
An estimated 300 students out of a graduating class of 694 participated in Thursday’s ceremony in the school's Golden Eagle Arena, where students wore the traditional cap and gowns and walked onto the stage to be handed their diplomas.
West Hills Lemoore Associative Student Body president Andrea Wood was one of those students who earned her degree on Thursday. She also served as the student speaker.
A Lemoore High graduate, Wood initially dropped out of college before traveling in Europe and living on the East Coast.
She returned to Lemoore and worked toward her degree, graduating at age 30.
“Back then, I thought college wasn’t for me,” she said. “When I came back, I wanted to better myself.”
Wood studied communications and humanities and plans on transferring to California State University, Fresno.
During her time at West Hills, she got involved in student government, serving as the ASB’s commissioner of finance for two years and then ASB president this year.
“I felt like there wasn’t an engaged student body,” Wood said. “I felt like I needed to be involved and that it was our duty to get more involved.”
During her time at West Hills, she also helped found the Go Green Club.
Initially, Wood planned on studying environmental science and made friends with people who had the same interests.
“We had a common goal to have a more sustainable environment,” Wood said.
Along with doing Earth Day events, the club used plastic bags to make yarn. Crocheted mats were made out of the yarn to donate to homeless people to use. The club also found ways to use recycled material to make baskets.
“We just tried to advocate for environmental awareness,” Wood said.
West Hills Lemoore president Kristin Clark said commencement is her favorite time of the year.
“It’s the culmination of our students’ hard work, dedication and perseverance, and we enjoy celebrating their accomplishments,” Clark said.
West Hills Community College District chancellor Frank Gornick served as the commencement speaker and student Michelle Castillo-Addison sang the national anthem.
Wood said graduation can mean many things for different people.
“To me, graduating is a stepping stone to the next thing in my life,” she said. “For others, it’s going to allow them better pay at their jobs and it’s their last step in education.”
Wood had words of motivation to those wanting to give up on their education as well.
“Don’t give up, and just keep going,” Wood said.