In July, I had the honor of delivering the commencement address to the graduating students of Columbia College in Fort Worth.
For those who may not be as familiar with Columbia College, it’s located on the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base and is unique because a majority of the student population serves in the military. In fact, out of the three colleges that make up the Columbia College system nationwide, one in every four of their enrolled students is serving in the military.
While Columbia College is similar to most traditional universities in terms of the degree tracks available, the process of attaining their degree is different than most for these students. Since a majority of the students are actively serving in the military or have retired from the military, many of these students have started earning their degree later in life or have had to postpone completion of coursework because of deployments. Also, for a majority of the students, regardless of a military background, they are working full time jobs and taking care of their families in the process.
The Columbia College staff and educators understand well that their students are working to earn their degree in a non-traditional way and they all deserve to be commended for their first class professionalism. The faculty and staff have a passion to help every one of their students attain their educational goals. As a former teacher myself, I appreciate their high level of commitment and dedication.
What also makes Columbia College exceptional is the fact that so many of the graduates also give back to their communities in their own way; not to mention the sacrifices of those who serve, or have served, in the military. I know this firsthand because I have a Columbia College graduate on my staff in Fort Worth. She served honorably in the military, and she is now serving the 12th Congressional district by working with constituents who have case work issues they need help resolving with the federal government.
Among those who graduated this year include a cancer survivor who returns every year to “Camp Make a Dream” as a motivational speaker to share her story and bring hope to young people going through what she went through at a young age. There was also a graduate who switched degree tracks so that he could become a teacher and coach after he retires from the Navy, as well as a gentleman who served 17 deployments away from home. While his deployments prevented him from completing his degree in a traditional time frame, he never deterred from his goal of ultimately receiving his bachelor’s degree.
I am truly inspired by the stories of the men and women who attend Columbia College. They are a remarkable group of people who epitomize the words service, character, and determination.
Member of Congress