Southwestern Oregon Community College celebrates its 2023 graduates

Southwestern Oregon Community College celebrates its 2023 graduates

Coos Bay, OR – Southwestern Oregon Community College’s 2023 Commencement Ceremony will take place on Friday, June 9, 2023, at noon in Prosper Hall on the Coos Campus, 1988 Newmark Ave., Coos Bay.

Southwestern is proud of the 2023 graduates! This year the College is pleased to honor a total of 364 graduates, from 20 states and 15 countries.

Degrees being awarded are:

141 Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer

103 Associate of Applied Science

37 Associate of General Studies

40 Associate of Science

118 Certificates of Completion (one year)

Southwestern also congratulates seven local high school students who acquired their associate degrees at the same time they were completing their high school diplomas.

Guest attendance at the ceremony is by ticket only. The celebration can be viewed live via the College’s Livestream channel at

Additional information for graduates and their families can be found on the Graduation webpage located at

GH = Graduating with Honors, 3.75 GPA   |   V = Valedictorian, 4.00 GPA   |   PK = Member Phi Theta Kappa


One Man’s Scholarship Mission

One Man’s Scholarship Mission

When you walk into Randolph Hall on SWOCC’s Coos Campus, you can hear laughter. It is hard not to follow the sound right into the Veterans Center to be a part of something good.

One tall, blond-haired man is always right in the middle of conversations there. To folks who do not know Ryan DeVore, he appears to be just another Vet Center work study student. Quiet-spoken. Smiling. 

To those who know him, he’s much more. 

“I’ve become a better person because of Ryan,” Shana Brazil said, as she watched him chatting with two students. “Ryan is so open to everything. Veterans can tell him anything, and he never looks down on them – ever. He never has anything negative to say.” 

Shana is SWOCC’s Veteran Services Coordinator. She’s worked with vets at the college for years. She got to know Ryan a couple years ago. He was one of many disabled veterans coming to school to use GI Bill benefits to learn. Ryan found his way to her office. Shana liked him immediately. She asked if he would be her work-study student. Disappointingly, he said no. Three weeks later, Ryan returned. He asked if the job was still open. 

Ryan and his wife, Jessie Courtright, grew up here and have family here. Ryan felt a connection to the college. Jessie graduated from SWOCC 18 years ago, he said, adding proudly she was the first woman to graduate in welding. Ryan applied to SWOCC in 2022 and got a Foundation scholarship. He is pursuing a science degree, but is working on a bigger mission. He believes his mission will improve the world in small, incremental ways long after he’s gone. 

“I’m dying, you know. Slowly,” Ryan said, as he started telling his story. “I have organ failure.”

It is an autoimmune disorder that manifested as diabetes and Grave’s disease. Slowly, it has overcome his pancreas and now is destroying his liver and spleen. He’s waiting for it to attack his heart or his brain. 

A person could let that eat away at him. That’s not Ryan’s story.  

When he started his work study job, he learned that veterans club students tried to create a permanent scholarship for vets and their families. They made good progress in 2020 fundraising, until COVID killed the effort. 

Ryan picked up the mission. 

“It’s really important to help the soldiers and their dependents. They may be running out of benefits or needing a little extra help,” he said. 

There’s a perception that if you serve in the military, you get free college, free job training. Some do. For others it is more complicated. Many older veterans’ benefits may have expired, or run out just short of the end of their schooling. For veterans with families, the monthly aid often does not stretch far enough. 

Ryan knows personally, the value of a scholarship. It covers the bits and pieces. It eases worry. It helps to know someone cares. 

His goal is to raise the scholarship fund to $50,000. The Vet Center is selling T-shirts. Ryan says he’s hoping to win the lottery. He launched a GoFundMe effort. Donations are trickling in.

“I’m trying to make the world a smarter place. It’s how I deal with my PTSD and ailments. If I’m going to be around, I’m going to try to make everybody’s day better,” Ryan said.

Ryan developed the mindset serving in the U.S. Army from 2002-16, until being medically discharged. He served at Fort Benning, Fort Stewart and Fort Hood. He also did two deployments to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. As a staff sergeant, Ryan watched over his soldiers. He cared for them not only at work, but in their home life and everything. If they needed something, he made sure they were taken care of. 

“He’s brought that into the Vet Center a thousand times more than we ever had,” Shana said. “He just cares about the students. I appreciate it so much.”

Every day, Ryan keeps a candy jar ready for anyone who walks through the Vet Center door. He gets to know each veteran, their spouses, their children. He listens. When they need help, food or a friend, Ryan finds it for them. He connects them with things to do in the community. When some veterans’ car broke down recently, he picked them up and drove them to school. 

“I’m just trying to live forward. I need as much good karma as I can find,” Ryan said, which is why this 42-year-old man’s mission is to finish creating the scholarship fund for veterans. 

“This work-study money I get, it’s going to go to this project.  I am working for free today for kids,” he said.

Now you have met Ryan DeVore. No, he is not just another work-study student. To those who know him, he is a hero.


If you would like to contribute to a permanent scholarship for veterans and their families click ‘Give’ to donate online. Put ‘Veterans Scholarship’ in the notes.


For more information about the veterans program at Southwestern visit, call 541-888-7236 or email

Southwestern honors former athletes in Hall of Fame

Southwestern honors former athletes in Hall of Fame

Coos Bay, OR – Southwestern Oregon Community College’s Hall of Fame honors former athletes, teams, coaches, and those that had a large impact on the College and its athletic programs. Two teams and one individual span a wide range of Laker history and make up Southwestern’s Hall of Fame class of 2023.

This year’s inductees are:

  • The First Men’s Golf team (1967-68) including players Bob Seelig, Ron Thompson*, Roger Ketchum, Clint* & Doug Laird*, Al McDougall*, Dave Johnson*, John Duncan*, Bob Abbey*, Chuck Smith*, and Wayne Overstake*, coached by James (Jim) Ferguson;
  • The First Women’s Golf Team (1997-98) including players Margot Patula, Tiea Pruitt, and Raynae Harding;
  • The First Men’s Golf NWAC Champion (2008-09), Andrew Von Lossow, coached by Michael Chupka.

The Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place on the Coos Campus (1988 Newmark Ave., Coos Bay) in Prosper Hall on Saturday, June 3, 2023 at 3:00 pm during the Annual Sports Awards. The event is free and open to the public. There will be food available following the ceremony.

The College is seeking help in locating team members, noted with an (*). Anyone having information on the inductees may contact the Hall of Fame Committee at or 541-888-7208.


A Family Tradition of Helping Others

A Family Tradition of Helping Others

Tom, Deanna, Jack and Alan Prater


If you were to look among a crowd of Prater family members, just about every one you see works in health care. Husband and wife team Deanna and Tom Prater, Tom’s brother and sister-in-law, and Deanna’s mom worked in the profession.

Tom and Deanna met in the military. He grew up in Reedsport and she in Pennsylvania. When they finished service, they landed on the south coast in the late 1990s. Tom had it in his mind to go into nursing, having watched the timber industry crash while growing up. He knew it was a good pathway.

They enrolled at SWOCC.

“I was doing math, physics, and engineering. Tom definitely didn’t want to move out of the area. I thought what am I going to do with a math degree?” Deanna said.

It’s funny how things work out.

It wasn’t long before Deanna entered the nursing program. Today, the Praters have enjoyed nearly 25 years in the profession.

“There are so many avenues you can do in nursing. I feel like there is some avenue for anyone,” she said.

Tom worked at Bay Area Hospital for years, and now works in the ER at Lower Umpqua Hospital in Reedsport. Deanna works at Lower Umpqua, too, as Director of Infection Control, Employee Health and Safety.

Soon Deanna and Tom’s sons, Jack and Alan, will enter the profession. Both are first-year nursing students at SWOCC and living at home so they work their way through school debt-free. 

“With nursing, you help people,” said Jack who’s 30 and ready for a new career. “And, you can make a living wage and own a home here.”

Alan had worked entry level jobs in health care, monitoring people’s hearts and then at the cancer center. He’s comfortable in a health care setting. He had the opportunity to take a free ride to law school in Salem, but turned it down for a career in nursing. Oregon desperately needs nurses and is among the top five states with the highest pay for RNs.

“This field is useful and helpful whereever you go, and wherever you are,” Alan said.

The brothers study together. Being able to work and go to school at the same time has been helpful, too.

“It’s convenient. I attend lectures remotely and in-person,” Alan said.

This winter, the brothers started their “clinicals” – the hands-on hospital work experience alongside a Registered Nurse.

“Seems like I know every fifth person. It’s cool taking care of people you live around,” Jack said.

Deanna and Tom didn’t pressure their sons to go into nursing. Their message to each son was simple.

“Be a good person. Enjoy life. Find a partner you can have a happy life with. Contribute to the world. Do something good.”

The next generation of Praters intends to follow that mission. Nursing will give them a start in that direction.  


To learn more about our Nursing program text or call 541-240-8227; email:

Chief, mentor, mother . . . a rewarding life helping her community

Chief, mentor, mother . . . a rewarding life helping her community

Tasha Renard, Battalion Chief and Critical Care Paramedic with the Myrtle Point Fire Department, messaged us that she was going to be late to our photo shoot appointment. The reason? She received a text from a local waitress that one of their morning’s regular customers hadn’t shown up for a few days. The staff at the café were worried. That’s when Tasha jumped in her rig and headed over to do a Home Wellness Check on an older resident. He turned out to have been under the weather, nothing serious, but Tasha did a vitals check, visited for a bit, and then was back at the station.

“That’s a common occurrence in this job, and I love it. I love supporting our local people”, says Tasha. It’s been a long journey to get where she is now. As a younger person she didn’t think about her future, or even realize she had one. Dropping out of high school junior year and having a baby right before her 18th birthday limited her perspective. She later found support and encouragement from a SWOCC program at the Newmark Center and was able to complete her GED. After that, she landed a job doing clerical work. 

Growing up in Coquille, Tasha developed respect for the Fire Chief there. “I used to go down to the station and bug Dave Waddington regularly because I wanted to become a volunteer Firefighter.” It was after volunteering for a while that Waddington encouraged Tasha to do a ride-a-long in the back of the ambulance. “That was it. I was hooked. I traded in my office high heels for Danner boots. My only regret is that I didn’t start sooner.”

Tasha went back to school. She worked for six years as a part-time Emergency Medical Technician, then quit her “day job” to go to school full-time and get her AAS in Paramedicine. Since 2018 she’s been full-time at Myrtle Point Fire and was promoted to Battalion Chief Jan. 1, 2023. Tasha credits the Fire Chief Willy Burris as playing a big role in her career advancement. “Willy has always been supportive of my career growth and training. He hired me, making me the first full-time female firefighter/paramedic in the county. He’s very progressive and an amazing mentor. He keeps us on the cutting edge of emergency medicine.”

“I was the first in my family to go to college and model that for my daughter who graduated from SWOCC’s nursing program. I’m very proud of her.”

In addition to her duties as Chief, Tasha also provides valuable training and mentoring to the next generation of paramedics currently enrolled in SWOCC’s EMS programs. 

Anthony Gantenbein, Assistant Professor of EMT/Paramedicine says, “Tasha Renard is one of the best paramedics, and people, that I’ve ever known. She truly embraces what it means to be a patient advocate and is committed to doing what is right for people whether they are in the back of her ambulance or not. Our program is lucky to have alumni like her out in the world helping to advance the profession. SWOCC EMS wouldn’t be what it is without her, and the profession would be worse off if Tasha and Myrtle Point Fire/EMS didn’t push our students to have pride and ownership in their education.”

Tasha received advanced ­training to become a Critical Care Paramedic and is internationally certified to be a flight paramedic. One challenge of living in an isolated area means critical care flights are not generally authorized. Add to that the fact that often the ability to take care of critically ill people in our medical ­facilities is limited. “We do a lot of ­critical care transfers by ground. That’s why I got the certification. With my other certifications I could work for a fancy flight company as a paramedic, but I really love working on an ambulance, responding to a scene, stabilizing the patient, and starting the treatment plan.”

To anyone considering a career path similar to Tasha’s she wants you to know the EMS field needs people!

“Without us the community is at great risk. There are going to be bad days but there are more ­amazing, rewarding days.” 


To learn more about all our EMS programs text or call 541-240-8227; email:

Southwestern calls for Distinguished Alumni nominations

Southwestern calls for Distinguished Alumni nominations

COOS BAY, OR – Southwestern Oregon Community College is seeking the community’s help to honor graduates who have gone on after college to improve their professions, education, communities, and the world. Each year since 1992, the College has requested nominations for a distinguished alumni.

The College is accepting nominations for 2023 through April 1. To be eligible, nominees must have graduated with a degree or certificate, or have completed a minimum of 60 credits from Southwestern.

Past recipients have included leaders in education, the arts, Native American tribes, business and finance, research, medicine, and the military. Today, Southwestern’s graduates continue to distinguish themselves in professions and innovative efforts to build friendships around the globe. The College wants to celebrate these individuals who have contributed selflessly to improving society. Please consider nominating alumni for the recognition they deserve.

To read more about past recipients, go to Alumni News at

To download the nomination form, go to:

Please submit nomination forms by April 1 to:


Or mail them to:

Southwestern Oregon Community College
c/o President’s Office
1988 Newmark Ave.
Coos Bay, OR  97420


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