Courtyard of Honor is an annual event that tells our college story better than almost any other college-wide event. I think it surprises people when I say, “I like this event better than Graduation or Scholarships and Awards night.” I don’t mean to diminish those events in any way – after all they are impressive celebrations of a job well done by our students. There is no hiding the proud smiles of faculty, staff and family members as students receive diplomas or receive a scholarship or special recognition of achievement. However, Courtyard of Honor celebrates what individuals did with their education and thanks those who keep making it possible.
Each year I am reminded of how a teacher, classmate, staff member, team or a club activity can change a student for a lifetime. At the time “it” happened “it” did not stand out – greeting someone with a helping hand, staying after class to answer a question, writing a comment at the end of an assignment, helping with a registration task, helping fill out a form, offering some friendly advice, or giving a word of encouragement – “it” is just what we did. To us, this was simply our routine. However, years later, these returning alumni explain to us that upon reflection “it” made a difference in their lives. Now their lives are making a difference in the lives of others. How I wish there were as many people in this audience as attend Graduation.
However, this audience is the other thing that makes this event so special, because many in this audience are donors. They have given of their time and resources to provide students with increased opportunity. Many of these students would not have attended or graduated from our college without their financial support. Their academic preparation would not have been as good without the equipment and materials they helped us purchase. These people help put the word “community” in our community college. It is most fitting to have an event where donors see, up close, how graduates make our communities better. Their stories demonstrate how they used their education to improve the quality of their lives, advance in their professions, and serve their communities.
How I wish that we could package the inspiration of this one day. I would send it to Sacramento when legislators discuss funding requests for community colleges. I would pull it out for staff when the lines get long, and someone is asking the same question they have already answered 50 times that day. I would send it to faculty who graciously added extra students and now have extra papers to read. I would share it with those who have had to wait longer for services, because of cut backs, to remind them the wait is worth it. I would share it with the administrator who has been bogged down dealing with a particularly difficult complaint.
Sharing this day reminds us all why we do what we do and of the value of our work. One graduate said, “Golden West College provided a solid foundation for my future as well as the discipline to pursue and reach my academic, professional and personal goals,” and a donor stated, “let us all continue our commitment to Golden West College and to those who impart knowledge and to those who gain that knowledge, and may those that come behind us share our commitment to student success.”
We change lives and provide students with “Oceans of Opportunity.” It’s not just a motto; these lives are living proof, that it’s what we do well.