Lewis & Clark Graduate School Commencement
Sunday, June 5, 2022
Guest Commencement Speaker
is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, educator, and community activist. Her young adult novel, Piecing Me Together (Bloomsbury, 2017) received a Coretta Scott King Award and Newbery Honor. Her children’s picture books and novels for teens have received several awards and international recognition. She has given readings and lectures at many renown places including the United Nations, the Library of Congress, and the U.S. Embassy in Japan and New Zealand. Her poetry and fiction centers around the experiences of Black girls and women, and explores themes of home, identity, and the intersections of race, class, and gender. Renée Watson
One of Renée’s passions is using the arts to help youth cope with trauma and discuss social issues. Her picture book, A Place Where Hurricanes Happen is based on poetry workshops she facilitated with children in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Renée was a writer in residence for over twenty years teaching creative writing and theater in public schools and community centers throughout the nation. She founded I, Too Arts Collective, a nonprofit that was housed in the home of Langston Hughes from 2016-2019. Watson is on the Council of Writers for the National Writing Project and is a member of the Academy of American Poets’ Education Advisory Council. She is also a writer-in-residence at The Solstice Low-Residency Creative Writing Program of Pine Manor College.
Renée grew up in Portland, Oregon, and splits her time between Portland and New York City.
Student Commencement Speakers
Hi there, my name is Alondra Itzel Orozco. I am a first-generation graduate student in the Professional Mental Health Counseling program.
My parents are both from Mexico and that is where my heart lies; what I do here at Lewis & Clark is an extension of my land and of my ancestors. I grew up in Woodburn, OR, where I was given the amazing chance of attending their art high school and have since incorporated creative elements into my life and those of my clients. Growing up in and around my Mexican culture, I realized that there were many challenges we faced that could not be easily explained to others; our mexicanidad (Mexicanness) makes our conocimiento (knowing) a different experience in emotion, thoughts, and body.
My goal is to cater back to my community, but also to incorporate other ways of knowing besides the Western ideal of cognition. I get an injection of energy when I work with folks wanting to explore their racial journey or any form of displacement. This program has helped me tune into my indigenous narratives and how it can be respected and thrive in the counseling space, especially for bodies of color.
While in this program and in my internship experience, I took a world-shifting training named Foundations in Somatic Abolitionism by Resmaa Menakem (author of My Grandmother’s Hands) and continue to do work in this space; my supervisors have encouraged me to do what feels right for me as a clinician and how to incorporate my wisdom into the therapeutic space.
When I am not in internship or supervision, I am learning recipes and ways of life from my mom and grandma, eating, laughing, dancing, meditating, or visiting my grandfather’s grave for guidance. Prior to joining the PMHC program at Lewis & Clark, I received my Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Portland State University.
Melissa is a member of the Pomo, Cahto, and Wappo tribes of Northern California. She is a first-generation graduate in School Counseling. She lived in Northern california most of her life where she worked in business, insurance, and then moved into education. She worked as a Middle School teacher for five years while also volunteering for the local fire department and EMS Ambulance. Melissa also manages a memorial scholarship program in memory of her sister, and has been giving scholarships to local high school students for twenty years. She enjoys building strong community relationships, volunteering, and working with the youth.
Melissa moved to Troutdale in 2019 to have her beautiful daughter, Katherine Rose, and to start a family with her partner, Ben, and his son, Kruse. While living in Troutdale, Melissa has enjoyed building a new community at home, and with her cohort at Lewis & Clark. Her new community has helped her and her family thrive through the pandemic. She and her family enjoy exploring the gorge, hiking, bowling, and traveling between Troutdale and her home in Northern California to visit friends and family along with sharing the traditions and culture that she was lucky enough to grow up with.
During her time at Lewis & Clark, Melissa has worked as an intern at East Gresham Elementary school, and Reynolds High School. She quickly fell in love with east county kids, but definitely took to the students who are traditionally underserved or fly under the radar. During this time she discovered her passion for helping students find their voice to advocate for themselves in their lives, and within the school walls. Melissa finally feels like she has found her place, as an educator, and is extremely excited to continue her work after graduation.