June 17, 1995 in City

The Next Chapter Seattle Poet Tells Ewu Graduates To Dream Of Future, Never Stop Learning

By The Spokesman-Review

Seattle poet Mona Lake Jones compares life to a story, and on Friday she urged Eastern Washington University graduates to make theirs worth reading.

“For you are graduates who recognize the world is in need of repair,” Jones said at the EWU commencement in Cheney.

Friday was the last day for college graduations in the Spokane area.

EWU awarded 1,934 baccalaureate and 328 master’s degrees. The community colleges wrapped up graduations, too, handing out 2,523 diplomas or certificates throughout the week.

At EWU, Jones talked about her sense of wonder of life and the good work individuals can do.

“Plan to use your talents to make a better earth,” she said.

An educator and activist, former resident Jones still is considered a prominent member of Spokane’s black community.

She talked about the warmth of Friday’s sunrise, and how life can be sweet. She compared it to a warm berry pie or a bed of roses with a soft breeze blowing through.

This feeling, she said, gives strength in the face of challenge and adversity.

She drew heavily on the writings in her highly regarded book of poetry, “The Color of Culture.”

One line from the book reads: “It doesn’t matter which door you came in. What counts is what you do once you’re inside.”

Jones’ vision of the world serves her well. She’s called the poet laureate of Seattle. She teaches graduate classes at Pacific Oaks College and works for numerous civic and social enterprises.

She spoke at the invitation of students.

“I know earning your degree has not been an easy task,” Jones said. “You have struggled and worked with diligence to become learned scholars.”

She implored the graduates to treat others with respect, to never stop learning and to dream of a future.

“Now all you need to do is work on the content of your stories,” Jones said. “What will your next chapter be?”

For Andrea King of Spokane, it will be law school next fall at the University of Washington.

King graduated with a 3.96 grade-point average in just three years, earning a bachelor’s degree in pre-law and government. She was a valedictorian at Mead High School in 1992.

She said she believes in Jones’ message.

“I’ve always wanted to go into law to make a change,” said King, 21. She hopes to protect the environment.

Bill LaRue, 31, of Spokane, is returning to EWU next fall to begin a master’s program in computer science. He left home because of family problems at the age of 16 and worked his way through high school. He spent six years as a wage earner and then went to college.

“I’ve been looking forward to graduating since I started,” LaRue said.

Angela Goard, 25, of Spokane, finished her bachelor’s degree last December, and landed a job teaching physical education at Mossyrock High School in Lewis County.

“I’m excited for a real paycheck again,” said Goard, who was laid off by Rocky Mountain Bank Note when it closed in Spokane several years ago.

Nykolee McGill, 22, of Sunnyside, is returning for master’s studies in communications disorders because it takes an advanced degree to get a job as a speech therapist, she said. She wants to work in a hospital helping stroke and head injury patients.

Like many students, McGill said she isn’t sure where her career will take her. “I have no idea where I will be,” she said.

King, LaRue, Goard and McGill are among the winners of the Mary Shields Wilson Award that recognizes top undergraduates.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

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