University of Alaska Southeast Ketchikan Campus celebrated its 2015 graduates this weekend. One graduate chosen to give the student address started it with her indigenous language.
Starla Agoney received her degree in elementary education in full regalia, with her graduate’s tassel pinned to a traditional woven cedar-bark hat.
And when she gave her commencement address, she began in Haida.
UAS Ketchikan Campus Director Priscilla Schulte introduced Agoney, who received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education through the Preparing Indigenous Teachers for Alaska Schools program.
“Starla’s instructors will all tell you she’s raised the level of academic discussion in their classes, challenging both herself and her classmates to get more from their student experiences,” Schulte said.
In her speech to fellow graduates, Agoney used an example of climbing Ketchikan’s iconic Deer Mountain to illustrate the challenge of making it through a college program.
“It had been on my to-do list for a long time. But for 32 years, other things took higher priority,” she said. “It wasn’t that I didn’t want to climb the mountain, but I didn’t have the confidence that I could make it to the top.”
Agoney said family and friends helped by setting small goals along the way, and taking breaks as needed. The last push was the most difficult, but accomplishing that goal felt great at the end. Agoney says she knew then that she could make other dreams come true.
“I had never thought about going to college. I was married and a mother by age of 19. And it seemed impossible to be anything more than a mother and a wife,” she said. “I hadn’t even graduated from high school.”
Her husband encouraged Agoney to go through a GED program, and later, she says, she found herself enrolling at UAS, giving herself another mountain to climb.
Like with Deer Mountain, Agoney says she made it with the encouragement of family and friends. And she’s not alone – the other graduates climbed along with her.
“We’re at the top of the mountain,” she said. “And we’re calling to everyone who has the dream of a college education: ‘We’re here. You can do it.’”
Agoney graduated cum laude, and received a regional award in addition to her degree,
recognizing her as one of this year’s outstanding Southeast graduates.
Other speakers during Saturday’s graduation ceremony were UAS Chancellor John Pugh, University of Alaska President Patrick Gamble; and Commencement Speaker Doug Ward. Longtime band director and music teacher Roy McPherson received a Meritorious Service Award.
Thirty-nine students graduated this year from UAS Ketchikan. They’re listed below.
Certificate – Accounting Technician
Certificate – Small Business Management
Certificate – Health Information Management / Coding Specialist
Associate of Applied Science – Business Administration
Associate of Applied Science – Fisheries Technology
Associate of Arts
Associate of Science
Bachelor of Arts – Elementary Education
Bachelor of Arts – Social Science
Bachelor of Business Administration – Accounting
Bachelor of Business Administration – Entrepreneurship
Bachelor of Business Administration – Management
Bachelor of Liberal Arts – Interdisciplinary Studies
Master of Arts in Teaching, Secondary Education
Master of Education, Educational Leadership
Master of Education, Educational Technology & Graduate Certificate
Master of Education, Mathematics Education
Master of Public Administration
Katie Jo Parrott