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PCC’s 53rd commencement features speaker with transformative story

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Kole Myrick never thought he’d reach this pinnacle – Portland Community College’s 2015 commencement student speaker.

“I am pretty proud to have been chosen,” Myrick said. “I never expected to end up where I am now and this opportunity is yet another part of my journey.”

At Portland Community College’s 53rd Commencement Ceremony, Myrick will address more than 1,000 fellow graduates and thousands more in friends, family and community members. He’ll discuss his story of being a trans man going from homelessness to honor student and student leader, and how he learned to ask for help.

Myrick sits on several committees, including the Gender Inclusive Spaces Committee, which advised the college on important changes that included building 22 new all-gender bathrooms across the district and making it possible for students to use their preferred names on student rosters and IDs.

Myrick sits on several committees, including the Gender Inclusive Spaces Committee, which advised the college on important changes that included building 22 new all-gender bathrooms across the district and making it possible for students to use their preferred names on student rosters and IDs.

“PCC basically saved my life by accepting me and offering me financial aid,” said Myrick, a Northeast Portland resident.

This year, more than 5,400 degrees, certificates and awards will be handed out and nearly 900 students are planning to walk in front of thousands of friends, family and community members. Graduation proceedings are set for 7 p.m., Friday, June 12, in the Memorial Coliseum, 1401 N. Wheeler. For more information on the ceremony, visit the commencement website or e-mail records@pcc.edu.

In addition to Myrick, presenters include master of ceremonies Karin Edwards (Cascade Campus president), who will be joined on stage by Deanna Palm (board chair), Sylvia Kelley (acting PCC President) and commencement speaker Jeff Pettit (Rock Creek Campus math instructor). The national anthem will be performed by 2015 graduate Lisa Bennett.

The college’s Parking and Transportation Services will be providing free roundtrip shuttle service between the Cascade Campus (705 N. Killingsworth St.) and the coliseum. Parking is free at Cascade. Shuttles will commence running at 4 p.m., departing every 15 minutes. The last shuttle will leave the coliseum one hour after graduation. For graduation shuttle information, contact Michael Kuehn at mkuehn@pcc.edu.

Finding his Voice

Myrick’s journey includes being a transgender male in a gender-specific world as well as becoming homeless in the big city environs of Seattle. Soon after losing his housing, the Spokane, Wash., native made his way south to Portland, a last shot at survival, he said. At age 39, Myrick had made the hard decision to restart his college education and earn a network administration degree.

This isn’t the first time he tried college. Myrick graduated from East Valley High School in Spokane in 1994 and went on to attend Spokane Falls Community College for a short spell before dropping out to work full time, never thinking he’d return to college. Myrick didn’t step foot back onto a college campus until 2013 when he enrolled at PCC. This time, he said he got the academic support and life mentoring he needed to build the confidence needed to get involved and succeed in school.

Academics has never been a problem. On June 12, he will get his associate degree in Computer Information Systems: Network Administration, after cultivating a 3.9 grade-point average and making the honor’s program. He will return to the college next year to finish requirements for the Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer Degree. In addition to his studies, Myrick has been a student leader in the college’s student government (Associated Students of PCC) and served as the Sylvania Campus’ student director for legislative affairs.

“I have been able to do a lot of work towards helping students register to vote, have a voice on the proposed student activity fee increase and lobbying our legislators in Salem,” Myrick said. “I have been able to meet many people I never dreamed of, including Governor Kate Brown.”

Myrick sits on several committees, including the Gender Inclusive Spaces Committee, which advised the college on important changes that included building 22 new all-gender bathrooms across the district and making it possible for students to use their preferred names on student rosters and IDs.

“We have worked so hard over the last two years and the victories we have gained have made me so incredibly proud to be a part of it,” he said.

Future involves lots of education

What does the future hold for Kole Myrick? According to the video game enthusiast and part-time photographer, same as the present – more college. Myrick is aiming to earn a bachelor’s degree in Intercultural Communication (maybe at DePaul or Pepperdine universities) and a master’s degree in Student Affairs (possibly at either Oregon State or Colorado State). Those degrees will give him the tools for his professional return to a community college to work as a student leadership, or queer resource coordinator.

On June 12, he will get his associate degree in Computer Information Systems: Network Administration, after cultivating a 3.9 grade-point average at PCC and making the honor’s program.

On June 12, he will get his associate degree in Computer Information Systems: Network Administration, after cultivating a 3.9 grade-point average at PCC and making the honor’s program.

“I want to be able to help students get through the tough times and find their paths,” Myrick said.

It’s a desire to return the favor and do what people like Stephen Arthur (Student Life and Leadership Development manager) and Heather Lang (dean of Student Development at the Sylvania Campus) did for him in his time at PCC. Both staff assisted Myrick in adjusting to college life and expectations.

“Stephen taught me so much about being an advocate for students, he has showed me how much of what I do affects students at large and he has also helped me become the person I am today,” Myrick said. “I am much more confident, self­ aware and looking forward to the future than I was when I first arrived at PCC. Without his guidance, camaraderie and friendship I do not think I would be where I am today.

“And Heather has helped me a lot with with what I want to do after PCC and where I see myself in the future,” Myrick said. “Not to mention having a smile for me when I need one. She doesn’t let me give up when I feel overwhelmed and that is so important to me. There are so many people that have affected my life here at PCC. I can’t possibly name them all, but I do appreciate every single one of them.”

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »

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Comments

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x by Cynthia PG 2 years ago

Wow, Kole, just wow. Congratulations and well-deserved.

x by Linda Browning 2 years ago

Congratulations, Kole! We are looking forward to your remarks at graduation this Friday.

Linda

x by Steven Gordon 2 years ago

Way to go, Kole!

x by phuong nguyen 2 years ago

congrat, Kole

x by Ja’qlyne Slaughter 2 years ago

Congratulations Kole!

Thank you for being so supportive and inspiring!

J

x by Mbrace 2 years ago

Congratulations, Kole, you’re awesome.

x by Kole Myrick 2 years ago

Thank you all!

x by Steven DeLorenzo 2 years ago

Nice work on the GPA. Best wishes.

x by Jill Nicholson 2 years ago

Congratulations! Happy for you!

x by Nancy Ford 2 years ago

SO happy for you Kole!

x by lorri oneill 2 years ago

Congratulations kole, what I can share is that I appreciate PCC for making many champion students so that may go on to be champion citizens and help others do the same. Thank you PCC for all the great things that you offer. :)

x by Dani Dennenberg 2 years ago

Beautiful story. As a member of the LGBTQ community myself, this story was especially meaningful to me. Keep dreaming, Kole!

x by Amber Hastings 2 years ago

Kole, It’s been an honor to see you grow as a leader since you got involved last year. Looking forward to seeing what you accomplish next :)

x by Michelle Estes 2 years ago

Kole, GREAT job, I knew you were a special kind of leader ! I am so happy for you and all your accomplishments. Look forward to seeing what you tackle next.

x by mustafa aldory 2 years ago

hope you will not stop at this point and go forward
congratulation

x by Kim Douthit 2 years ago

Congratulations, Superstar! You’re such an inspiration :)

x by Mo Drake 2 years ago

Congratulations on your academic success, and best wishes for a successful, happy future!

x by A. G. 2 years ago

Thank you for being so brave and congratulations on all your success so far. I will be graduating tomorrow and am very excited to see you speak. My partner is also F to M and will also be in the audience watching. I’m very excited to hear what you have to say. Best of luck to you in the future.

x by Dena Jawad 2 years ago

Congrats!! You deserve it. Thx to be brave and go for it .

x by Ramy Chanramy 2 years ago

Ways to go Kole!… Congratulation on your success, best of lucks!!…

x by Patsy DeBernardis-Moreland 2 years ago

I would like to stay connected with PCC via email.
Thank you.

x by Renee Jasnoch 2 years ago

Such an awesome, inspirational story. Lovely. Congratulations Kole=)

x by LuAnn Watts 2 years ago

You are an inspiration to many. Your commencement speech brought me to tears. You are going to go far in this world! I’m proud to have had you speak and I was lucky to get to walk across the same stage as you! Best of luck!

x by Jeff Pertit 2 years ago

It was an honor to share the stage with you. You did a really great job. I foresee more greatness in your future. Keep changing the world!

x by Feature: College’s 53rd commencement caps graduates’ PCC journey | PCC News 2 years ago

[…] program included an emotional speech by student Kole Myrick and words of inspiration by commencement keynote speaker Jeff Pettit, who is a Rock Creek Campus […]

x by Kole Myrick 2 years ago

Thank you all. It was scary but I am happy to have done it.

x by Rhonda Boyd 2 years ago

Kole,
This was the first year that I missed the PCC graduation. I missed your speech, but heard that it was absolutely wonderful. So glad to read in this article that you are thinking about a future in Student Affairs!! Wonderful!! Congratulations on all your hard work and best wishes on your next educational steps!!

x by O’Nesha Cochran 2 years ago

You have an amazing, calming presence. I can tell you will go out and reach a lot of people with your story. Thank you for your fearlessness. Congratulations on all your accomplishments and good luck for the rest of your journeys!!!

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