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News Release
2018 MHCC Student Graduate Speakers
2018 MHCC Student Graduate Speakers
MHCC Student Graduation Speakers Come From Different Paths, But Seek Similar Goals (Photo) - 06/13/18

In less than a week, hundreds of new graduates of Mt. Hood Community College will walk across a stage in the college’s stadium to receive the diploma, degree or certificate they’ve been working toward, in some cases for years. Three of these graduates will receive the rare and meaningful opportunity to share their experiences and goals with thousands of graduates and their family and friends in attendance.

Kalani Montgomery, Mariah Haley, and PonyBoy Peterman all walked different paths to arrive at MHCC. On Friday and Saturday, these three students will traverse the same stage and stand at the same podium. They will wear the same colored robes and caps and will beam with the same enthusiasm, persistence and humility that made this journey possible.

Kalani Montgomery, GED Graduate

When he was 18 years old, Montgomery was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. To undergo radiation therapy, he dropped out of high school. During his treatment, doctors told Montgomery he’d never be able to have children, but only a few months later his girlfriend at the time told him she was pregnant.

With a child on the way, Montgomery had a new reason to fight cancer and to continue living. He survived, was given a clean bill of health, and saw the birth of his first daughter. Five years later, he was again diagnosed with cancer, again had a new daughter on the way, and again beat cancer against all odds.

“I wanted to see my kids grow up, to keep on going and to show them that you can overcome the odds,” said Montgomery. “They were a huge part of my inspiration, and without them I might not be here today.”

Nearly two decades ago, Montgomery made a promise to himself and his family: when his children were old enough and moved out, he’d return to school to finish what he had started. In September 2016, he began fulfilling that promise in the GED program at MHCC. Last December, he earned his diploma and now he plans to pursue a degree in Cybersecurity and Networking at the college. At Friday’s GED/Adult High School Diploma (AHSD) Graduation, his two daughters – his biggest inspiration – will be standing by his side.

Mariah Haley, AHSD Graduate

Haley’s children – two boys, ages 10 and 12 – inspired her to return to school and complete her diploma too, along with a supportive husband.

“I wanted to show my sons that no matter how hard life gets, you never give up,” she said. “They’ve been by my side throughout my education, helping me with homework while I helped them. And they know it hasn’t been easy, but I’ve shown them that you don’t give up, no matter what.”

In high school, Haley recalls that she was a hard-working student at first, got good grades, and went to all her classes. But then, she says, “A switch went off in my head.” Partying and hanging out with friends became her priority and she eventually dropped out.

It wasn’t until she met her husband that she decided to give up the partying lifestyle for something more – a family. After a few failed starts, she began working toward her adult high school diploma in 2015. A short time later, she started working for MHCC Head Start.

Now Haley has a new goal – earn her associate degree in Child Development and Early Education from MHCC and pursue a career in childcare. This fall, she’ll begin down that path, with her sons and husband by her side, with classes at MHCC.

PonyBoy Peterman, Associate of Science in Biology Graduate, 2017-18 Associated Student Government President

Peterman’s journey to MHCC started some four years ago at Gresham High School. Eager to begin his college studies, he started taking college-level classes in biology and Spanish through MHCC’s College Now program. On Saturday, he’ll receive his associate degree in biology and, soon after, start down a path towards earning a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering in hopes of working in medicine developing prosthetics, health information systems, and similar technologies.

Over the last year, Peterman has not only studied diligently toward a science degree, he’s focused on advancing student success initiatives as president of the Associated Student Government at MHCC. It’s been a path that’s taken him far outside the scope of what he’d initially expected to achieve at MHCC, and an experience that he expects will influence his future goals.

“When I came to Mt. Hood, I knew I wanted to participate in student government,” said Peterman. “But it wasn’t until a year in that I decided to take that next leap – and I’m glad I did.”

Peterman’s focus in student government has always been cultivating a college culture that encourages learning and success. He’s achieved this through several initiatives, among them expanding Barney’s Pantry and the college’s Textbook Affordability program. And he’s found and leveraged opportunities, including a partnership with the Oregon Food Bank and an initiative to streamline student government at MHCC.

Peterman himself is the first to recognize that the students at MHCC come from all different paths and backgrounds. But they come with similar inspirations and goals, he says, and he’s made it a priority to help them in achieving those goals through student success initiatives and projects.

“It may be a little selfish, but I like how it feels when I can help other people to succeed,” added Peterman. “And that’s something I hope to carry on with in my education and my professional pursuits.”

Next fall, Peterman will begin working toward a degree in biomedical engineering.

The 2018 GED/AHSD Graduation at MHCC will take place Friday, June 15, at 7 p.m. at the Earl Klapstein Track and Field Stadium. The GED/AHSD Graduation speaker is Dr. Debra Derr, president of MHCC. The 2018 Commencement will take place Saturday, June 16, at 10 a.m. at the stadium. The 2018 Commencement speakers are Barbara Roberts, 34th Governor of Oregon, and Dr. Derr.

Visit mhcc.edu/Graduation for more information.

View more news releases from Mt. Hood Comm. College.