Alumni awards: Real stories representing Clark’s history and lore

 In Inspiring Stories, News

­For 89 years, Clark College has shown how the dreams invested in one institution can affect hundreds of thousands of lives and shape the history and future of a region.

During a May afternoon, five special Clark alumni were celebrated for their contributions to their communities and beyond. They shared inspirational stories of how their alma mater set them on pathways of success.

Outstanding Alumni and Rising Star Award recipients for 2021-2022

These Clark College alumni are making a difference on the local and world stage, and at Clark. They are making substantial contributions to their communities. They are truly inspiring people.

To glean perspective for the present, though, is to remember the past. In 1933, a group of educators and business people dreamed of bringing higher education to Southwest Washington in order to help the region survive the darkest times of the Great Depression. Those dreams have forged a Clark College legacy that has lasted for decades.

What was true during those first difficult years and remains true today is that Clark College has flourished. It has done so because the institution focuses on making sure students define and achieve their own success.

Just over 40 years ago, Clark College developed a way to recognize alumni who were doing incredible work in their local communities, on the global stage and at Clark. Today, to be considered for the award, alumni are nominated by faculty, staff, family, classmates, co-workers and others. Each nominee is carefully considered using a multi-step review and approval process. The award recipients are selected from a pool of exceptional nominees.

On Monday, May 23, 2022, at the Hilton Vancouver Washington, alumni, students, faculty, staff, family, friends and other supporters joined Clark College Foundation’s Alumni board at a luncheon to honor and present the Outstanding Alumni and Rising Star Award recipients for 2021-2022. For a few hours that afternoon, award recipients told their personal stories of how their Clark experience helped them develop confidence, overcome adversity or set them on a targeted career path.

Cosette “CoCo” Leary ’09 was one of the Outstanding Alumni Award recipients.

“Clark College is my love affair. It gave me my authority to live my life. Direct poverty was my experience.”

Today, Leary is thriving. She’s an author, life coach and motivational speaker. Her inspirational memoir, “From Welfare to the White House” explains how others can transform their lives.

For Sen. Annette Cleveland ’87, “When I think of Clark College, I think of community, hope and family. Clark College made education a reality for me. It opened the door of opportunity to learn and have confidence. I’m forever proud to be a Penguin,” said another Outstanding Alumni Award recipient.

The other Outstanding Alumni Award recipients are government official Marissa Madrigal ’96, who was not in attendance at the in-person event, and retired educator Tom Maresh ’60. The Rising Star Award recipient is activist Jasmine Tolbert ’15.

Congratulations to all of honorees. Visit our YouTube site for individual videos of the recipients.

See the photos on Flickr:


Written by Ed Boston and Rhonda Morin of Clark College Foundation

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