#MCCGrads2023: Meet this year’s student commencement speakers

April 23, 2023 | Tim Engle

Metropolitan Community College history will be made at this year's commencement on Thursday, May 18. It will be the first time we hold two ceremonies: 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. at Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence.

With fewer grads at each ceremony — in the neighborhood of 450 at each, plus friends and family — the program would be shorter anyway. (The goal is 90 minutes, which includes announcing the name of each grad as they cross the stage.) Another time-saving change this year is no guest speaker.

One ceremony in years past meant one student speaker. This year, however, there will be two. It’s our pleasure to introduce them to you.

Thomas Creach, 1 p.m.

MCC Commencement Student Speaker Thomas CreachHe dropped out of high school his senior year but ultimately found his way back to a classroom. Now 30, Thomas will not gloss over his life’s detours when he addresses fellow MCC graduates.

“I want to talk to people in the crowd who are graduating by the skin of their teeth but they did it,” he says, adding: “You’re not just the worst thing you’ve done. … You will have the ability to define yourself on your own terms.”

Thomas, who grew up in Johnson County, would work as a professional baker and restaurant manager. Eventually he earned a high school equivalency diploma and, in Summer 2018, started at MCC-Penn Valley. He is graduating with an associate in arts degree.

He’s moving on to UMKC to earn at least two degrees in what has become his passion: history. Inspired by MCC faculty and experiences here, including the annual Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Southern historic sites, he plans to become a history instructor. And he’d like to return to Penn Valley to teach.

Right now, he’s also finishing up an MCC documentary on the history of the basketball program at Penn Valley.

Thomas says his college career started out strong but sputtered a little later. The pandemic was part of it. Still, “MCC has worked with me every single step and not judged me, condemned me or dismissed me,” he says. Another reason why he’ll be back.

Aden Bakken, 6 p.m.

2023 Commencement Student Speaker Aden BakkenAden, 27, of Platte City completed his associate in arts degree last December. As a student speaker, he is representing MCC-Online, although he also took classes on the Maple Woods campus.

In just a few weeks he’ll start a summer class at UMKC, where he’ll likely pursue a degree in electrical and computer engineering. He loves math, science and physics and came this close to a straight-A GPA at MCC: He got just one B (his first semester).

His goal is to work in robotics — designing robots that will do jobs that aren’t safe for humans (like mining or high-risk construction work) or tasks that would enhance our lives. In Aden’s own life, he would appreciate a robot that did chores around the house. “Definitely do the laundry,” he says. “That’s the biggest thing.” Including folding.

Was there an MCC class that stands out for him? One was a chemistry course taught by adjunct instructor Hubert Ekpoh. He immediately explained the connection between his class and the real world, Aden says — no doubt particularly beneficial for new students.

It was Aden’s final semester, but “if it had been my first semester, I’d have been like, ‘I’m staying here!’ ”