April 22, 2021 by Sally Johnson

2020 Graduates Return to FVCC to Participate in Commencement

2020 was not an easy year to be a student or complete college. Those who finished degree programs last year sadly missed the opportunity to celebrate their achievements beside their family, friends and faculty at a graduation ceremony. 

That’s why these three outstanding FVCC graduates have decided to return to campus and participate in the milestone tradition of commencement ceremonies. On May 7 at 5:30 p.m., you’ll find Audrey Abbott, Kelly Weigant and Arrow Eastham sauntering in cap and gown toward the podium to receive their diplomas, but we couldn’t wait until then to tell you about them.

FVCC is honored to introduce these three resilient and inspiring 2020 graduates participating in the 2021 Spring Commencement, some of many we will be celebrating in a few weeks. 

Audrey Abbott, Associate of Arts in Psychology 

After her hard work, achievements and positive experience at FVCC, Audrey Abbott looks forward to celebrating her dedication to education and the professors and family whose unwavering support helped her obtain an associate’s degree. While graduating during a global pandemic was not without challenges, Abbott is grateful to FVCC faculty for how they showed up during an unprecedented crisis.

“When what we thought was going to be only a week off of school turned into online classes for the rest of the semester, we all had to adapt and overcome,” said Abott. “While it was difficult to stay on track with assignments and to stay motivated, my professors were incredibly understanding, and with their kindness, I was able to complete my degree on time.”

Abbott, who graduated with honors from FVCC, is now working toward a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in environmental studies at the University of Montana. She plans to pursue a master’s and ultimately a doctorate in psychology with the goal to enter the field of wilderness therapy. This year, Abbott also enlisted in the Montana Army National Guard, where thanks to her associate’s from FVCC she was able to start at a higher Private First Class E3 rank. 

“By joining the Guard I will be able to finance my educational goals, learn new skills and serve my country and state,” Abbott added.

Arrow Eastham, Associate of Arts in Substance Abuse Counseling

“It’s never too late to go to school,” said Arrow Eastham, who worked toward her associate’s degree from home last year while her youngest daughter was attending online high school in the same room. Eastham, who graduated with honors, cherished this time with her daughter and is proud that her accomplishments can serve as a positive example for her children.

Since graduating, Eastham began an addiction counseling internship at Gateway Community Services Flathead Valley in Kalispell. She is currently 300 hours into the 1,000 hours of supervised work experience required in order to take the Montana Licensed Addiction Counselor’s test. Eastham expects to finish the 1,000 hours this fall and then sit for her exam.

Of her experience at FVCC, Eastham notes that she enjoyed learning beside other non-traditional students as well as younger students and that faculty members, like Carlin Hale, a substance abuse counseling faculty advisor, made a lasting impression.  

“More than one time I walked in and some students thought I was the instructor,” Eastham said with a laugh. “I always felt comfortable there. It’s a great school. I recommend it to people all the time.”

Kelly Weigant, Associate of Applied Science in Medical Coding

In March 2020, Kelly Weigant was wrapping up her degree at FVCC and starting a new job at Kalispell Regional Medical Center when the COVID-19 crisis began. Learning a new position and finishing her last five college classes was the most difficult part of the pandemic for Weigant, but determined to complete her college degree, she overcame a historic moment of global adversity and graduated.

“No matter what road block comes your way, you can persevere if you want it bad enough,” said Weigant.

Now a year into her role as a collector for Medicaid at KRMC, she applies what she learned at FVCC at work everyday. Eager to celebrate this major life accomplishment, Weigant looks forward to participating in the in-person commencement ceremony this year.

“Knowing that I graduated last year just doesn’t feel complete without crossing that stage,” she noted. “It is something that I started in the ‘90s and decided to complete now. So until I walk it just doesn’t feel complete.”

For more information about the commencement ceremony, limited to four guests per graduate, please visit fvcc.edu/event/spring-commencement.