Commencement Message from Dr. Frank Toda

As I Grew Older

It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright like a sun—
My dream.
And then the wall rose,
Rose slowly,
Between me and my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky—
The wall.
I am black.
I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Above me.
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.
My hands!
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dream!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Of sun! 

Langston Hughes

June 15, 2012

Holding onto the Dream

Why do we dream? Our dreams remind us of what might be and of what we can achieve. They give us hope for the future, and a goal to strive for. They show us the world as we wish it to be, and show us as we envision ourselves. But a dream is just that: it is not solid until we take it in our hands. It does not exist until we make it happen.

In the poem “As I Grew Older,” Langston Hughes talks about what happens when barriers rise up between us and our dreams. We lose sight of the dream; we forget what it means to hold those dreams in front of us, to envision our future so clearly that we can feel and taste it. This can, and does, happen to all of us some times. But we have an opportunity to break down those walls and achieve anything we can imagine. If you can dream it, you can be it.

How do we achieve our dreams? Education is the path that bridges the gap between your dream being out of reach and being right in your hands. Through learning, you can discover how to make your dreams become reality.

A part of Columbia Gorge Community College’s mission is to “build dreams and transform lives” and we take our mission very seriously. Our dream is to provide lifelong educational programs that strengthen our community, because we believe that providing access to the tools you need to achieve your dream is the definition of an institution of higher learning. That belief is at the core of everything we do—from our recently completed Academic Master Plan1.89 MB to the new structures and buildings we’re putting up this summer, and from the student success initiatives we’re participating in to our ongoing work toward independent accreditation. Here’s what’s coming up:

The Academic Master Plan is a blueprint for our educational goals that defines our course of action for the next three to five years, guiding our program and service development, staffing, budgeting, and facilities decisions. This plan was drawn from research and from input from students, community members, industry partners, and our own staff and faculty.

We are also building a new training tower for our Renewable Energy Technology program. At 10’ x 12’ x 24’ high, this structure will provide us with a way to train our RET students in climbing and safety techniques right here on campus, incorporating even more hands-on learning into our program—one of the first in the nation and recognized with the American Wind Energy Association’s Seal of Approval.

The new National Guard Readiness and Training Center is breaking ground soon, and is projected to be completed in August 2013. This facility will have a space large enough to host a 1,000 person conference, and will provide additional parking and class room space for the college.

We are participating in several state and national initiatives for student success, including Foundations of Excellence, Achieving the Dream, and Win-Win. These initiatives help us tailor our programs and services to be of maximum benefit to our students and the communities we serve.

Finally, we continue to move toward independent accreditation, with that goal coming to completion in summer of 2013.

As we look forward to a busy and exciting summer, we invite you to explore your dreams. Do not forget them, and do not let yourself be blocked from them by the shadows of doubt. Let us help you break down those walls and find your “thousand whirling dreams of sun.”

Dr. Frank Toda, President