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WCC student among five honored with statewide award

Tyler Gilmore recognized for his academic achievements, perseverance and leadership

Post Date:01/13/2016 12:30 p.m.

Tyler GBellingham, Wash. – Whatcom Community College student Johnathan Tyler Gilmore is one of five statewide recipients of the 2016 Transforming Lives Award from the Washington State Association of College Trustees (ACT). As a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Gilmore is self-reliant and disciplined, but he attributes the support and encouragement of WCC faculty and staff for his current success.

In high school, Gilmore’s grades plummeted as a result of an abusive, prejudiced home life. His mother kicked him out of the family home in Idaho because of his sexual orientation. He enlisted in the Marine Corps and began searching for direction. He found purpose through his military service and discovered his post-military goals at Whatcom. Gilmore, who is 24, will receive the Transforming Lives Award, which includes a $500 scholarship, at the annual Transforming Lives Award ceremony Jan. 24 in Olympia. This is the second year in a row a WCC student has been selected for this elite group.

“Tyler is a remarkable student,” says WCC President Kathi Hiyane-Brown. “His determination to succeed is worthy of recognition and illustrates the importance of access to higher education.”

Gilmore is especially appreciative of staff at the College’s veterans services center for helping to ease his transition to college. “The amount of support I get from my professors on an academic and personal level is astounding,” he adds. “Whatcom allowed me the opportunity to explore my career options by providing affordable tuition, and it provided small classroom settings to get immediate feedback on my work. I am a direct consequence of divorced and abusive parents, and I’m the result of an amazing institution.”

Gilmore, who has a nearly perfect grade point average, will transfer to a four-year university after earning his associate’s degree from Whatcom this spring. He plans to earn a degree in communications and hopes to work in public policy or politics. He is a member of WCC’s honors program as well as Phi Theta Kappa, the national honor society for two-year colleges. Gilmore won the academic achievement and excellence award in communications studies in 2015. He participates in student government and is the director of operations for the Associated Students of Whatcom Community College.

“We can’t choose our upbringing, but we can choose to allow it to break us or motivate us. I choose to be motivated,” he says. “My inspiration comes from an intrinsic desire to succeed, and the hope that my success will set a good example for my biological brothers and sisters and my fellow Marines. With WCC’s amazing faculty and staff and a little fortitude, I’ve grown and matured into a successful student. I plan on leaving a positive impact on WCC. When faculty and staff work with a veteran they’ll expect great things. When they work with people from broken homes they’ll expect great things.”

About Whatcom: Whatcom Community College is an accredited, comprehensive two-year college with an accomplished faculty and staff who serve 11,000 students annually. On its campus in Bellingham, Wash., and through online courses, Whatcom offers transfer and professional-technical degrees as well as basic education, job skills, and community and continuing education classes. The Aspen Institute ranks WCC among the top 150 community colleges in the nation. For more information, visit

About the Transforming Lives Award: Each of Washington’s 34 community and technical colleges nominate individuals for the prestigious award, which recognizes students who have overcome significant barriers to achieve their higher education goals and celebrates how two-year colleges help to transform lives through education. For more information, visit

Contact: Mary Vermillion, Whatcom Community College PIO, (360) 383-3310,


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