POULSBO — Olympic College’s June 17 commencement ceremony will mark an incredibly important day for those walking across the stage to collect their diplomas. But for one pair of graduates, the day will be extra special.
With OC’s commencement ceremony coinciding with Father’s Day this year, Steven Henden will be treated to what he calls “the best Father’s Day gift ever.” On Sunday, Henden and his daughter Rachel, also a student at OC, will walk across the stage together to collect their diplomas.
That’s right; both Steven and Rachel will be graduating from OC at the same time — on Father’s Day.
“We didn’t plan it or anything like that,” Steven said, addressing the obvious coincidence.
“I think it’s so cool, I love it.” Rachel said. “When I found out the day that graduation was on, I was so excited.”
Steven studied computer information systems and completed the cybersecurity certificate program after 15 years of intermittent college studies. Rachel, a high school student in OC’s Running Start program, focused on the core classes necessary to earn her degree, but also took a few of the prerequisites for OC’s nursing program.
Steven’s instinct was to simply get his degree and begin looking for a job, but when Rachel found out that the graduation ceremony was taking place on Father’s Day, she convinced her dad to participate.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it was her idea,” Steven said. “I was just going to get my degree and walk away and she said, ‘No way!’”
“I think it’s awesome. I’ve been telling everyone,” Rachel added.
Attending classes on the same campus offered the father and daughter an opportunity to check in with one another throughout the week. The two even made a point to have a lunch or quick snack together at least once a week.
Steven said his prior experience at OC gave him a unique perspective on how the college has changed over the years.
“Having been there in the ‘80s, it’s turned into a beautiful college and the instructors there are top notch,” Steven said. “It used to be kind of a small town college. It’s really turned into a beautiful college.”
Come Sunday, mother and wife Vicky Henden will also be in the audience, cheering the pair on as they share their milestone together.
“She has been a trooper. I couldn’t have asked for more support at a time like this.” Steven said of his wife. “She’s been really supportive and I really appreciate it.”
As for what the future holds for the Hendens, Rachel is looking to take a year off before moving on to pursue her bachelor’s degree in nursing. Steven said he would be looking for jobs.
“I think she’s going to beat me to the bachelor’s degree,” Steven quipped.
Rachel thanked her parents for their constant support both in and out of the classroom.
“I just want my dad and my mom to know how thankful I am to have them as my parents.” She said. “They’ve been super supportive in everything I do.”
This story was first published in the Kitsap Daily News. Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter with Kitsap News Group. Nick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.