Nearly 1,200 West Kentucky Community and Technical College students are eligible to participate in the college's fall commencement at the Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center at 7 p.m. Dec. 10.
The keynote speaker will be Ballard County native Morgan Alvey, who has served as a field representative for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell since 2016.
After earning an associate in arts degree with high distinction from WKCTC in December 2010, Alvey attended the University of Louisville and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in political science in 2013. She completed a master of professional studies degree in legislative affairs in 2015 from George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management in Washington, D.C.
A legislative intern for McConnell in 2014, Alvey assisted with legislative research, drafted constituent letters, answered constituent calls and conducted Capitol tours. She became a staff assistant for McConnell in 2015 and later worked as a floor monitor for the U.S. Senator Republican Conference.
She has received several honors, including a George Washington University graduate fellowship, the Jean and Elenaor O'Sullivan Award for Outstanding Achievement in Political Science at the University of Louisville, and the G. Leon Williams Scholarship at WKCTC.
During her commencement keynote address, Alvey will share about her educational journey and offer words of encouragement and congratulations to the graduating students.
Student speakers Kaycee Cooper Byrd and Julie Lasters will speak to their fellow students and the commencement audience.
Lasters, 20, grew up on a farm in Livingston County with her mom, dad, and sister. Like many farm kids, she said all she wanted to do was be outside. "When I began grade school nothing had changed and sitting in a classroom all day was the last thing I wanted to do."
During her first grade year at Christian Fellowship School in Briensburg, Lasters' mother realized her daughter was having a hard time in her classes. She could not hear phonics properly or read at the same level as the other kids, and was always the last one to finish class assignments. The family soon discovered she was dyslexic.
"Throughout the rest of my grade school years and being homeschooled through my middle and high school years each stage of my education was a hard and challenging. I remember times just crying because I did not understand why it was so hard for me. I simply hated school," said Lasters, who thought college would always be out of her reach. However, she made the decision to enroll at WKCTC in 2016, refusing to give up on herself.
"It came down to me deciding that I did not care if it took me eight years to get my associate degree or if trying my best Cs and Ds were the best I could do I was going to college for me and I was going to do whatever it took. And my first semester was one of the best things that has happened to me."
Her hard work and her determination to succeed over the past two years at WKCTC has paid off. Lasters is graduating with an associate in arts degree and is doing so with a high-grade point average and a new found confidence.
"It does not mean that it is not a struggle anymore. It just means that I have learned how to cope with my learning disabilities," Lasters said. "It means that you meet great friends who get your struggles and who are with you through those late nights that seem impossible. It means that with a little extra work, patience and faith I will get through it."
Byrd took a different route to WKCTC. A farmer's daughter from Ballard County, Byrd graduated as the Bomber's valedictorian in 1999. She earned a bachelor's degree in journalism, mass communications with an emphasis in radio and television from Murray State University in 2004. While attending MSU, she worked at Murray's popular Big Apple Café, becoming part owner in 2006 following graduation.
After 10 successful and lucrative years at the cafe, Byrd took the opportunity to embark on a new challenge at another well-established restaurant in Louisville. Over the next six years, she was responsible for consulting, openings, expansions and developments. Her success in the business world continued as she worked in marketing, development and distribution with a small produce/food wholesaler in southern Illinois.
But everything changed for Byrd in August of 2015 with the cesarean birth of her daughter, Ella. After suffering from a postpartum hemorrhage, Byrd nearly lost her life.
"I woke up with a new lease on life and a drive to give back the same kind of incredible care I had received from the team of nurses that saved my life," said the 38-year-old Calloway County resident. "After much research and discussion, I decided that WKCTC's associate degree nursing (ADN) program was the best fit for me."
Byrd said the program was one of the most challenging things she's ever committed herself to completing. The challenge was heightened when she and her husband discovered they were expecting another child in the middle of her third semester of the program.
"If it hadn't been for the incredible instructors in the ADN program that assured me I had what it took to continue, I would have walked away," Byrd said. "However, I pushed through with the help of my incredible classmates, family and friends to achieve my ultimate goal of becoming a registered nurse."
For more information on WKCTC's fall commencement, visit westkentucky.kctcs.edu