An enthusiastic crowd turned out Thursday evening, June 14, to celebrate high school completion by some nontraditional students at Walla Walla Community College. Several students came through the STAR Project (Successful Transition and Re-Entry), a program whose mission is to provide persons being released from incarceration with tools to successfully re-integrate into the community. Others had faced different barriers to completing their education, including health issues, anxiety, and bullying. The graduates poured out thanks to their children, their spouses, friends, classmates, and to the teachers and WWCC staff members who mentored, encouraged, and stood by their sides through the challenging process of returning to the classroom.
Perhaps the graduate with the most supporters attending was our own Ronnikka, who was featured at the 2018 Leadership Luncheon with the members of “the Diamond,” four women who bonded during their YWCA LINC classes and continue to support each other as friends and chosen family. Like her fellow students, Ronnikka took an atypical path to graduation; hers was derailed by horrific childhood abuse followed by ongoing intimate partner violence from her husband of 15 years.
WWCC GED Instructor-Facilitator-Encourager Beverly Miller-Jantz calls Ronnikka “a dedicated woman who puts her whole heart into what she does. Her determination and ‘I can do’ attitude is inspiring!” She notes that Ronnikka overcame many personal challenges to complete her high school education. Beverly was especially impressed by the way she faced her most challenging subject, math. “She stayed focused, she got the help she needed, she did not quit, and she kept on encouraging others. On the final day of GED testing for this quarter, she retook her GED Math test and passed. Hallelujah!”
It was a challenge to get to Ronnikka after the ceremony, as she was surrounded by members of her Pioneer United Methodist Church family, her Diamond friends, and representatives of the YWCA staff and board, in addition to well-wishers (including WWCC President Derek Brandes, pictured) congratulating her on the speech she gave as one of three student speakers.
The day before that speech, she texted YWCA staff: “I’m pretty nervous and getting more so as the time draws near. LOL!” She added, “God’s got me this far; He will continue to take me all the way through my lifetime. That I’m certain of!”
Like everyone who knows Ronnikka, her instructor Beverly says she is “excited for her and her next endeavors — to write her life’s stories, publish, volunteer.”
We can’t wait to see what this fearless woman will achieve next.