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portrait of CWC student Clarissa Wykstra

Reflection is an essential part of growth and is at the center of life’s greatest lessons, which is a message Clarissa Wykstra wanted to share with her fellow classmates before they depart from Central Wyoming College. Wykstra will express her successes, struggles and life lessons she learned at CWC to the graduating class of 2019 at commencement on May 10 in the Robert A. Peck Arts Center theater.

“I really like public speaking,” Wykstra said. “The opportunity to honor my graduating class is a humbling experience and a time for me to learn.”

Wykstra said this is a unique experience for her that she couldn’t pass on. She took guidance from alumna Amy Chidester, who presented for her graduating class at last year’s commencement which gave Wystra the initiative to apply for the commencement speaker competition the last day the application was due.

“You never really get the experience to give a speech to more than one thousand people,” she said. “I really like new experiences.”

This year CWC created a commencement speaker competition with a committee made of faculty, staff and students. There were nine applicants this year and five finalists. Each finalist was asked to prepare a three to five-minute speech for the committee. In previous years, a speech was given by the Senate president and a guest speaker.

“I think it’s great,” said Maygen Cassity, professor of communication about the new process. “It’s appropriate to have one of their peers speak to them at graduation. It’s nice to have motivation from outside the college but to have a peer who has had the same struggles give the last words to their own class is personable and meaningful.”

And narrowing down to one candidate wasn’t an easy feat for the committee. The ultimate decision came down to the message behind the speech.

“They were incredible,” Cassity said of the finalists. “Each had a unique approach in how they wanted to represent their graduating class. It was a tough decision. Anyone of them would have represented their graduating class incredibly well. We really tried to put ourselves in the shoes of the student body and focus on what they would want.”

And Wykstra had the connection the committee was looking for. Her message was the driving force for the decision.

“The most exciting part is getting to hear from the students that want to represent CWC and their student body,” said Connie Nyberg, registrar at CWC and commencement speaker committee member. “It’s great to discover how much they have grown as individuals and hear of the friendships they’ve developed at CWC.”

Wykstra said the committee was welcoming and everyone involved was a great supporter.

“The other candidates were all very encouraging and we were excited for whoever got it,” she said. “That support system was helpful when walking into and presenting to a committee.”

With two fellow classmates on the committee, Wystra said it wasn’t too intimidating to present to them since she will be presenting to students and their families.

“It helped make it more real to have fellow students there,” she said.

Wykstra said the heart of her speech will be the things that CWC taught her and how she’s going to apply those to the rest of her life which she hopes will relate to the graduates as well. As a communication and theater major, Wykstra has had experience with presenting.

“Maygen has been encouraging and helped me prepare for this speech,” Wykstra said. “My communication classes have helped me and I’ve taken time to reflect on my time here.”

Wykstra’s speech is all about making connections and making a difference in people’s lives.

The most important thing is just being kind to someone. Even if that is just smiling at someone; you never know what they are going through. Kindness goes a long way. ”

Wykstra said she’s looking forward to the feeling of accomplishment not only for herself but for her fellow students.

“Being proud of ourselves together is such a soul-warming feeling,” she said.

As part of being selected as the 2019 commencement speaker, Wykstra was awarded $250. She said this will go to her schooling at Weber State University where she will continue her studies in theater and communication. Her dream after she completes her bachelor’s degree is to pack her bags and go to Chicago or NYC to pursue professional theater-tech or acting.

“It’s a happy-sad situation,” Wykstra said about graduation. “I’m going to miss a lot of people and the support at CWC but I know they will support me in my future. Thanks to everyone who helped me through this journey.”