If You Go:
What: The JBLM College Graduation Ceremony
Where: Clover Park Technical College, 4500 Steilacoom Blvd. S.W., Lakewood
When: May 12 at 1 p.m. Doors open at 12:30 p.m.
More than 180 of this year’s 600 Joint Base Lewis-McChord graduates have signed up to walk in JBLM’s college graduation ceremony at Clover Park Technical College May 12. The students — military and family members — will receive degrees and certificates from one of the 40 colleges and universities participating in the higher learning programs at the David L. Stone Education Center on base.
Students will graduate from JBLM’s eight resident schools: St. Martins University, Brandman University, Pierce College, Central Texas College, City University of Seattle, University of Maryland University College, Central Washington University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, as well as 32 off-base universities and colleges.
Graduates participating in the event include service members and family members.
The keynote speaker at the event will be retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Chris Cortez, vice president of Microsoft’s Military Affairs. Colonel Daniel Morgan, JBLM garrison commander, will provide the welcome remarks at the ceremony.
The highest ranking service member in this year’s graduation is Chief Warrant Officer 5 James Israel, who will serve as the student speaker at the graduation.
Israel recently retired as the command chief warrant officer of I Corps and previously served as senior tactical operations officer for I Corps. He’s currently earning a bachelor of science in management studies from the University of Maryland University College.
Another JBLM graduate is Lourdes Ortiz. She is originally from the San Francisco Bay area and is the wife of Cpl. Mark Ortiz, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. The couple has one son, 2-year-old Marcus, and a baby due in November.
“At first I did not think returning to school was possible, affordable or in my plan,” she said. “I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in 2009 and had not returned to school because I did not know what I wanted to do.”
As a military family, they could have to move on short notice, Ortiz said, which also could be a complication in completing her studies.
“I did not want to start a program and later have to move and not finish,” she said.
Ortiz said that being a stay-at-home mom also was a consideration, since she wasn’t sure she’d be able to complete a traditional program while taking care of her son full time.
“Luckily, I found a program that was 100 percent online and (I) was able to work around my schedule,” she said. “It took many long hours and sleepless nights to complete, but finally, I’m here. I feel proud, happy, overwhelmed with many emotions because I finally completed this goal.”
Ortiz will graduate from Liberty University with a master’s degree in human services with a focus on counseling, addiction and recovery. She said she hopes to someday work with military families and veterans.
“It has been a long road, but I am finally glad to have accomplished this goal and be a positive role model for my son and family,” she said. “I believe anything is truly possible. You just have to remove that self-doubt and take the first step.”