Nearly 400 people will graduate in ceremonies at Seward County Community College, beginning the weekend of May 4, in three separate events. The weekend marks the 48th annual graduating class for the institution, and features speaker Jonny Vergara, senior branch manager at Sunflower Bank of Liberal.
Vergara, a 2013 Liberal High School graduate, began college at SCCC with the intention to enter the field of computer science. He quickly realized that his part-time job at the local bank sparked more enthusiasm and aligned with his strengths, than his original plan. Today, as the youngest professional in his position at Sunflower, Vergara credits those early experiences with helping him achieve success.
“Society kind of brings us up to have a fixed set of expectations about what it means to be on schedule, earn a degree, have a career, get married, have kids,” Vergara said, “but right from the start at SCCC, I learned to challenge the status quo and think for myself. The idea, ‘what are you going to do with this learning?’ really connects to the work force, and it worked in my favor.”
Vergara also acknowledges his good fortune in being able “to find the right mentors and the right opportunities at the right time. Ryan Valencia [at the bank] really taught me a lot, and allowed me to learn from my mistakes.” Today, Vergara continues to seek out mentors in a wide range of fields, with the goal of never becoming complacent.
“I’ve been honored to know Jonny through Chamber and community growth events,” said SCCC President, Dr. Ken Trzaska. “He really embodies the work that we do at the college, which is to help our students find their way to achievement, personal development, and the ability to make a difference in the world.”
Vergara grew up in Hugoton before his parents, Santiago and Margarita Vergara, moved the family, including siblings Edgar and Valeria, to Liberal. As a first-generation college student in Southwest Kansas, he understands that his success embodies the hopes of many. At the same time, he purposely focuses on personal responsibility and being part of the larger community
“I was raised by blue-collar individuals who are the hardest-working people I know,” he said. “They immigrated here to pursue the American Dream, and always told me to go to school, do my best, and make the most of my opportunities.”
As a young Hispanic man in an industry dominated by a different group, Vergara understands that “I have to be competitive and stay on my toes,” he said. “Being bilingual helps, but my goal is to never let my background be the defining factor. I want to bring real value to my workplace, be of service, be excellent.”
Vergara serves as board treasurer for the Seward County United Way, and is a member of the Kiwanis Club, Chamber of Commerce, and the Kansas Consortium for Academic Excellence in Intelligence work. He recently completed his first half-marathon, participates in men’s bodybuilding/physique competitions, and maintains a large stack of reading material.
“I am constantly reading, constantly learning,” he said. “It inspires me and helps me come back to center.”
Preparations are already under way for the big weekend at SCCC. Events on the schedule include:
Nursing Capping and Pinning ceremony for first- and second-year nursing students. This event takes place at 6 p.m. Friday, May 3, in the Greenhouse gymnasium on the main campus. A reception for graduates, friends, and family will be held immediately following.
The 48th Annual Commencement Ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 4, in the Greenhouse gymnasium on the main campus. The event typically draws a full crowd, and on-campus parking often fills the lot. Following the ceremony, the public is invited to a reception with light refreshments on the main campus green.
Kansas State High School Diploma (GED) graduation ceremony, which in the past has occurred later in the day after the college commencement, will be scheduled differently this year. Dean of Industrial Technology and Adult Education Travis Combs said he will announce the restructured event details at a later date.