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Colton’s Oak Valley College Holds Inaugural Commencement

Oak Valley College Commencement

Oak Valley College Inaugural Commencement Ceremony Features Two-Time Olympian

Colton, CaOak Valley College celebrated its Inaugural Commencement Ceremony in front of a standing-room audience at Benedict Castle in Riverside. Approximately 170 attended a ceremony full of tradition and one surprise. Willie Banks, former World Record holder in the triple jump, two-time Olympian, and businessman provided the keynote address.

Oak Valley, a Christian business college in Colton, provides a traditional classroom-based liberal arts program where students complete a Bachelor of Arts in three years with no student loans. The campus opened in Fall 2016, and the first student cohort completed their studies at the end of April.

At the Commencement, the Class of 2019 was charged by various speakers to continue to pursue their faith, knowledge, and passions as they impact the world around them.

Mr. Banks encouraged students to remain true to their beliefs, follow their dreams, and get up whenever anyone or anything knocks them down. He read the poem The Race by Dee Groberg, which tells the story of a young boy who falls several times during a race, but because of his willingness to get up each time still “wins” the race in his father’s eyes (and to the cheers of spectators around him). Mr. Banks said, “More important than anything you do in life is get up every time adversity comes at you…and finish the race.”

Board Chair Tony Angelo, President Eric Blum, Dean Gayle Linn, and graduate Stephen Mendoza rounded out the speakers. Professor and Faculty Chair Terry Morrow served as Master of Ceremonies.

The surprise at the Ceremony came when Board Chair Angelo invited two students to come up at the end of the program to share in a moment of prayer. At that time, graduate Matthew Sample proposed to fellow graduate AnnMarie Sylvester to the crowd’s cheers.

The day prior to Commencement, students participated in Baccalaureate, which featured a devotional speech from Dr. Aaron Hebbard and the The Teen Challenge Choir.

Rounding out the College Celebration week was the Second Annual Vision Dinner, which featured inspirational stories from students Hannah Morris (‘19) and Andrew Banes (‘21), as well as Board Members Glenn Tetley and Dr. Brian Black.

Students Hannah and Andrew spoke of how they attended local universities, previously, but due to the high-cost and debt burden were forced to withdraw during their freshmen year. Hannah said. “I loved the university I attended, but I simply could not afford it. When Oak Valley came to my attention, it was a perfect fit. I enjoy the personal attention I receive from professors, the family connections I have with students, and the practical knowledge and skills of a business degree. I never really considered business before, but it has helped so much, especially with my confidence and a path to a successful career.”

Alluding to her shyness, Hannah said, “2016 Hannah would not be up here on stage, but Oak Valley has provided me with plenty of opportunities to do presentations and 2019 Hannah has no problem delivering a speech in front of a room full of strangers.”

The Vision Dinner raised more than $38,000 for student scholarships, on a goal of $25,000. President Blum, talking about the vision for Oak Valley said, “In the tradition of America’s most prestigious liberal arts colleges, we believe in providing the highest quality teaching in pursuit of knowledge for the common good. We believe in supporting the achievement of each student framed by a Christian worldview. And of course, we believe that students deserve the freedom to receive this education without student loans.”

When asked how he feels after Commencement, President Blum said, “I feel a bit numb. After so many years of working toward this day, it seems unreal to be here and to see the students cross the stage. There is a huge weight lifted knowing that we have come this far and completed an entire cycle from recruitment, to teaching, to graduation. It is satisfying to know that the students are proud of what they have accomplished and the hundreds of people who have supported them throughout their schooling.”

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