LYNNWOOD — Be persistent and find a career you’re passionate about. Take advantage of the opportunities you see.
These are the messages this year’s student speakers hope their peers take away from their speeches during Edmonds Community College’s graduation ceremony.
The college’s 45th commencement is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. June 15 at Comcast Arena at Everett, 2000 Hewitt Ave., Everett.
This year’s student speakers are Matvey “Matthew” Sineev, 18, of Lynnwood, and Kristina Madden, 22, who lives in Mill Creek. They are both transferring to the University of Washington.
Sineev is a Running Start student and a senior at Meadowdale High School in the Edmonds School District.
“I started Running Start for financial reasons but I always wanted to be ahead of the game,” he said.
He applied to the UW as an incoming freshman, per a recommendation from a counselor who said it would be an easier pool to get accepted into. After completing his first quarter, Sineev will be reevaluated and ideally come closer to pursuing a master’s of business administration.
“I’m pretty much go, go, go,” he said. “I want to get my master’s by the time I’m 22.”
The decision to attend the UW was easy. The school is near his family and girlfriend and won’t disrupt his life.
“The Pacific Northwest is my favorite place in the whole world,” he said.
“I even like it better than Belarus,” he added with a laugh.
Sineev’s family moved to Seattle from Minsk when he was 4 years old with $12,000, a suitcase and unable to speak English.
The family moved to a neighborhood filled with Chinese and Mexican immigrants.
“I grew up being an American with a very different experience,” he said.
Sineev is also a dedicated bicyclist. The past two years, Sineev biked 10 miles per week, for a total of 6,000 miles in the past two years.
“It’s like going to Washington, D.C. and back,” he said with a smile. “Everyone has a way to relax and have their time to think.”
Sineev earned an Eagle Scout rank and is an assistant Scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 67. He also volunteers locally.
For his Eagle Scout project, Sineev and his team created 30 platforms to help patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital rehabilitate after injuries to their feet and ankles. The platforms were angled and painted.
At Meadowdale, Sineev was active in the Chamber Orchestra and swim team. Outside school, he has worked as a lifeguard at the Lynnwood Recreation Center and an English tutor at EdCC.
Sineev was surprised to learn he’d be speaking in front of a large crowd.
“I’ll talk about who I am, how I got here and how I’ve been influenced,” he said. “It’s less about me and more about the college. We did accomplish something big after all.”
Mom sets an example
Madden will graduate with an associate’s degree in pre-nursing. She started at EdCC as a Running Start student during her junior year at Cascade High School in the Everett School District.
This fall, Madden will enroll in the UW’s School of Nursing, a step toward her goal of a doctor of nursing practice in neonatology and maternal child health.
“My message is to not let anything stop you,” she said.
Madden is a recipient of the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, a national honor.
She works as a breast-feeding counselor for the state’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. At EdCC, Madden has led efforts to open a lactation room on campus for students who are mothers.
The mother of three was raised by a single mother in a low-income home. Madden’s original plan was to become a doctor to avoid the financial struggles she grew up with.
But when Madden had her first child at 15, her life plan needed tweaking.
“I had planned my life to go to medical school,” she said. “When I had my daughter I held onto that dream more ferociously. I had to prove to people I could do it.”
It was tough balancing her dream of becoming a doctor with being a mom. She looked into nursing, a field that would allow her to pursue her interest in medicine and science and be there for her daughter.
After the birth of her second child, Madden took a break from school. The break turned into three years.
In 2010, now a mother of three, Madden returned to EdCC and enrolled in the EdCAP program, a program that gives students ages 16-21 a chance to earn a high school diploma in a college environment.
“I was scared to go back to school,” she said. “I had dreams and high aspirations, but could I walk the walk?”
Madden earned a 4.0 GPA after her first quarter back in school. From there, she enrolled in honors classes not only to satiate her academic interests but to also be a strong contender in the competitive nursing program.
“Now is a really exciting time in my life where everything is coming together,” she said.
Madden knows of people who pursued a field because it promised a comfortable salary but were unhappy with their work. She wants her peers to know they can find a career path they feel excited about and make a living.
“I hope people can find their own passions in life,” she said.
She also wants to squash stigmas about young mothers and show she’s proof people can take control of their lives. Things may not happen in the order you plan or the timing may not align as expected, but don’t veer off path.
“People can get caught up in circumstances,” she said. “But you can work towards stuff and not give up.”
By the numbers
Edmonds Community College holds commencement at 7:30 p.m. June 15 at Comcast Arena Everett, 2000 Hewitt Ave., Everett. Some facts about the 2011-12 graduating class:
2,166: Number of degrees, certificates, diplomas and GEDs awarded
33: Percent that earned college transfer degrees
41: Percent that earned career degrees or certificates
30: Average age of graduates
72: Age of oldest graduate, with certificate for medical billing specialist
16: Age of youngest graduate, with associate of science degree
55: Percent female
19: Percent international students
Source: Edmonds Community College, May 2012 data