For the 450 students participating in Lower Columbia College’s 78th commencement ceremonies Friday evening, life couldn’t be better. The clear skies and warm temperatures that greeted the large crowd of students, family members and friends at Kelso High School’s Schroeder Field was just the icing on the cake.

The evening was a bit nostalgic for state Rep. Dean Takko, D-Longview, who gave the commencement address.

“I can relate to what the graduates are going through here today,” Takko said. He and several members of his family graduated from LCC. Takko, who graduated 44 years ago, said going to LCC was a great way to start his college education.

“I’m supposed to give you advice, things like be the difference you want to see in the world, dare to live your dreams, carpe diem, but at the end of the day we’re only one person in a world of 7 billion. So I ask that you take the time to help make this a better community,” he said.

A volunteer firefighter for several years, Takko challenged the graduating students to become volunteers and to find a way to make life better for someone else.

“The world doesn’t revolve around Longview. Take every opportunity to learn more about the world around us,” Takko said.

Following Takko’s address, three student awards were presented. Masado Ishii and Russell Kennington, both with 4.0 grade point averages, were each presented with the Scholastic Achievement Award. Daniel Jones was announced at the Congressional Technical Award Winner.

The student speaker of the evening was Maxwell Everett, president of student government. Everett compared life challenges, like graduating, to “being in the fire.” He said for some, those challenges could be working at a dead-end job, not working at all or dealing with addiction. The problem, Everett said, was not knowing how to get out of the fire.

“For me that fire was being a grunt in the Army,” he said.

And while he believes serving in the Army is an honorable thing to do, he says he knew he wanted to do more.

“It helped me realize we take a lot of things for granted. We need to appreciate everything in life and be thankful for each day,” Everett said.

The new grad also said it’s important to celebrate our achievements and successes.

“Each and every one of you graduates has had a different path and experience... don’t compare yourself to others. Let your path motivate you to a better future,” he said.

Shari Phiel covers Cowlitz County government, transportation and environmental issues for The Daily News. Reach her at 360-577-2510 or sphiel@tdn.com.

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