Whatcom's vision focuses on innovation that is deeply rooted in the experience of our diverse and changing communities. Each year we celebrate students with honors and awards to recognize their educational achievements and how they contribute to the vitality of community. Our hope for all WCC students, especially those we recognize on this page, is that they will contribute powerfully to active citizenship in a global society. On behalf of Whatcom Community College, please join me in congratulating our 2020 honorees and awardees.
Mario Alem was awarded the 2020 President’s Award for his significant academic achievements and contributions to the WCC campus community. Mario began attending WCC as a full-time Running Start student in his junior year at Squalicum High School. During this second year at Whatcom, he has served as ASWCC Study Body President. In his nominations for this award, Mario’s commitment to service-leadership, continual learning, and inclusive, empowered community shines through. Notably, he has successfully balanced academic excellence and his ASWCC duties with an above-and-beyond effort to support this peers and make himself available to the student community. As ASWCC President, Mario also led the ASWCC Get Out the Vote campaign, a collaboration with the League of Women Voters aimed at increasing civic engagement on campus. He is graduating from WCC with his high school diploma, transfer degree, and a 4.0 GPA. Mario plans on majoring in Political Science and English at the University of Washington, where he has been accepted into the Honors Program.
Transforming Lives Scholarship Award
A recovering drug addict “who went from soccer mom and PTA president to living on the streets of Tacoma and making an appearance on Washington’s Most Wanted,” Jodi has dramatically turned her life around. She credits the staff in the WCC BFET office with helping open doors she was afraid would never open for her. Earning a 3.94 GPA, Jodi is graduating from Whatcom’s Substance Use Disorder Professional Program. Her goal is to help other women who, like herself, are determined to improve their lives.
WCC Foundation Award
Kayla’s previous degree in massage therapy sparked a love for science and helping people heal, but it was volunteerism that inspired her to pursue a career in nursing. While serving with an international charity, Kayla was often the person with the most medical knowledge in the remote, rural areas she travelled to. She realized that to continue helping people in this way, she needed more medical training. Kayla has excelled in WCC’s nursing program. As an AHEC-WW Scholar, Kayla completed additional training in serving rural and medically underserved populations, and she has put these skills to use over the past year volunteering at a clinic serving uninsured and underinsured patients. Kayla has served her nursing cohort and the WCC campus community as Vice President of the Student Nurses of Whatcom club. Kayla was supported in her education by the WCC Foundation’s Pratt Karasik Scholarship.
WCC Foundation Award
Altynay Bekbossyn is an international student originally from Kazakhstan. She is studying early childhood education and accounting at Whatcom, allowing her to work toward her dream of opening a language school for children. Prior to studying at Whatcom, Altynay demonstrated her love of learning by earning her bachelor’s degree in linguistics in Kazakhstan, while teaching Russian to Peace Corps volunteers. Later, she was awarded an internship in Germany studying artificial intelligence before earning her MBA in South Korea. Altynay previously served as Director of Academic Success Programming for ASWCC. Altynay shared her experiences with the community as a student speaker at WCC Foundation’s 2017 Donor Appreciation Breakfast. In her time as a Whatcom student, Altynay has earned several scholarships and was most recently recognized with the 2019-20 Joyce and David Morse Scholarship.
M. Guadalupe Hernandez
M. Guadalupe Hernandez was awarded the 2020 Laidlaw Award for her outstanding combination of community service, personal development, and scholarship. Originally from Mexico City, Guadalupe first attended Whatcom twenty-five years ago as an ESL student, returning in 2016 to complete her transfer degree. Responding to the challenges which students from marginalized backgrounds experience in the US education system, Guadalupe’s thoughtful and diligent scholarship, vision, and community-focus has been instrumental in advancing Culturally Responsive Teaching practices at WCC. Her collaboration with faculty, staff, and student tutors in the Learning and Writing Centers has facilitated the introduction of bilingual tutoring and training and discussion around how to create a more inclusive and safe learning environment. She will graduate from WCC with a 3.9 GPA, and plans to pursue a Communication studies degree at Western Washington University. Ultimately, she wants to continue to help under-represented students find their voice by teaching Adult Education or English Language Learning at a university.
Outstanding Service to Students Award
Raveena currently serves as student representative for the Medical Assisting (MA) program’s advisory committee in which she has served for 3 quarters, thus far. In addition, Raveena is going to assist in the implementation of a lab manual from an East Indian perspective which targets Whatcom’s Core Theme 3.2 (apply culturally responsible pedagogy in all teaching and learning environments). Raveena committed to assisting the MA faculty in developing culturally responsible materials for our lab setting in which she will translate various clinical materials into Punjabi to assist other students going forward. She clearly demonstrates dedication towards diversity and inclusion. She advocates for her fellow students on a regular basis. Raveena tends to be the student who asks questions on behalf of her entire cohort relating to course materials, representing leadership. In addition to her college service, Raveena has improved academically throughout her time here at Whatcom tremendously. This student has demonstrated vast improvement by improving her GPA and her clinical skills have clearly excelled.
Coalition on Adult Basic Education Outstanding Adult Learner of the Year Award
During the pursuit of her GED diploma at Whatcom Community College, Cecilia DeLeon battled stomach cancer and raised two children on her own. She had been the victim of sexual assault and then become an advocate against it while also serving members of her community as a translator and resource. She has truly demonstrated leadership while overcoming the most difficult of circumstances.
“I have known Cecilia for over a decade and I feel like the word resilience does not even touch the strength she has shown,” said Dawn Kroontje, a teacher with the Washington State Board & Technical Colleges.
Despite setbacks, Cecilia made the phrase “Never give up” her anthem. In November 2019, twelve years after embarking on her journey, she earned her GED diploma. Every day, she fights a personal past that she says leaves her “feeling dirty, ugly, and invaded.” Miraculously though, she is neither fragile nor broken.
Cecilia has taken that profound, agonizing pain and directed her sights toward those without a voice who cannot defend themselves. She works with Community to Community, a local organization devoted to social justice for farm workers. In 2017, she actively stood against the Department of Licensing’s record-sharing agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that impeded on the rights of immigrant families. In 2018, Cecilia lobbied against sexual misconduct among immigrant agricultural workers. That same year, Cecilia was honored with the Seeds of Justice Award for her tireless work in the community.
With her high school diploma in hand, Cecilia is now ready to transition into a full-time college student. She plans to study law advocacy and to continue to “leave my fingerprint on this world.”
“I have never seen a woman rise from the ashes like Cecilia. She never gave up; she has survived in a way that can’t be quantified apart from the inspiration it gives others,” said Dawn Kroontje. “Cecilia doesn’t just represent the best our school has to offer, but the best our nation has to offer.”
International Student Service Award
This award is presented each year to international students who through their work with International Programs and involvement in our campus community have provided exceptional service to the college. Surabhi began her studies at Whatcom in Summer 2018, coming to Bellingham from her home country of Nepal. She immediately impressed the staff of International Programs with her strong academic performance and energy for getting involved on campus.
Surabhi has seemingly been everywhere on campus, involved in what appears to be every on-campus event through her work with Student Life and Development. She has served as the Vice President of Clubs for the Associated Students of WCC (ASWCC) from January 2019 to the present. In that role she has been a multiplier, inspiring students to participate in the campus community by engaging students in club activities, hosting variety of campus events, training club leaders, and chairing the WCC Interclub Council. Her supervisor says “Surabhi has brought energy, a great deal of care, and more consistency to an ASWCC program that has touched the life of hundreds of students.”
You may have seen Surabhi in one of the promotional videos that were developed in 2019 by Whatcom. She served as the face of our collective international student body, and represented the diversity of leadership in our student programming. In short, Surabhi has been busy in her time at Whatcom and will undoubtedly bring that same energy to Smith College where she will be transferring in the fall.
All-Washington Academic Team and all-USA Academic Team Nominee
International student Iman is from Ethiopia, studying engineering at WCC. Volunteering is especially important to Iman; as she says, “Helping people in any way I can is my hobby.” Iman serves as secretary-treasurer for the Muslim Student Association, and works at the Intercultural Center. She teaches children about the Quran and the Arabic language at her local mosque. She volunteers with Sew Lew Sew Merja, an organization that helps children under ten suffering from cancer. And she works as an Orca volunteer, helping with many campus events. Her career goal is to work in the biomedical engineering field.
All-Washington Academic Team and all-USA Academic Team Nominee
Surabhi is both an outstanding student, earning a 3.97 GPA, and an active member of the Associated Students of Whatcom Community College. Among her many endeavors, Surabhi serves as the vice president for ASWCC clubs, and is a member of the executive board. Her passion, energy, and commitment to the College are apparent in everything she undertakes. Her application essay for the All-USA scholarship described her personal history growing up in a conservative, male-dominated culture in Nepal. She credits her grandmother with inspiring her to get an education, and to be strong and persevere in the face of injustice and ignorance. She has been accepted to Smith College, and will pursue a career in international diplomacy.
All-USA Academic Team Nominee
Elizabeth Wilson Rodriguez
Determined to give her children a stable and comfortable life, Elizabeth enrolled in WCC’s Substance Use Disorder Professional (SUDP) Program. Her goal is to help children and families that have been affected by substance abuse. Elizabeth works in the WCC financial aid office, and is building her own house with the help of Whatcom-Skagit Housing, a group similar to Habitat for Humanity.
English as a Second Language Discipline Outstanding Student Award: Jungyoun Kim, nominated by ESLA faculty Lauren Beven. The ESLA faculty is proud to nominate Jungyoun Kim (a.k.a. Kim), a Korean international student and WCC soccer player, for the ESLA Award. Kim began his studies in beginning ESLA classes in the summer of 2018 and has steadily progressed in his English language skills each quarter since. He is now the top student in the advanced and highest level ESLA course – next stop, English 101! Kim is a remarkable student whose instructors describe as “super-conscientious, hard-working, and persistent”. Kim’s determination is exemplified in this anecdote from John Toof, who states, “I was particularly impressed when he suffered a concussion and back injury in WCC's championship game against Tacoma. Kim was out of class for more than a week, but despite the physical and emotional pain, caught back up with this studies and passed his class”. Thank you Kim for your diligence, positive attitude, and especially the joy you brought to classmates and teachers alike in your ESLA classes!