SEATTLE — Seattle Pacific University students have been working towards their degree for years. So how does it feel to finally receive it?
“I don’t know the words to describe it,” says Kodiac Gamble, a member of the Class of 2014. “It’s incredible.”
“I can’t say enough how happy we all to be here,” adds Quinten Branch, “to have finally made it.”
But there were heavy hearts at today’s commencement celebration. Many graduates were wearing maroon and white ribbons, to honor the victims of the campus shooting just one week ago.
“It’s awesome that everyone is able to have this time and come together,” says Hannah Smith. “But at the same time, this thing overshadows and you don’t want to take away from the seriousness of what happened.”
“It was difficult because it was so recent and so extreme,” says fellow graduate Michael Brooks. “But SPU created a fantastic community and everyone was able to get through it and focus on the positive things.”
SPU’s president took a moment to recognize Jon Meis, the hero student who stepped up and disarmed the gunman. He also announced that a new scholarship will be created in his name.
“It is my hope that future generations of Seattle Pacific engineering students who will benefit from this scholarship will be inspired by Jon’s faith, his witness and his boldness to act when others are in need,” says Daniel Martin.
The crowd gave Meis a standing ovation when he received his diploma.
“I can’t get the picture of Jon Meis out of my head, the tremendous cheer the crowd brought,” says Gamble.
“We’re just all amazingly proud and happy to have him around,” says Abby McMillen.
Students say the tragedy can never be forgotten. But it has made them more grateful to reach this milestone in their lives.
“It’s made our celebration more special, it’s made our class come together more,” says McMillen. “It’s made me proud of SPU, to be part of a family like this and a community like this.”
“We’re doing our best to keep our spirits high, we won’t allow our joy to be taken away,” says Branch.