As is the tradition at College of the Atlantic, several graduating seniors will take part in this year’s commencement ceremony and share their perspectives on their time here. This year, the gathered crowds will hear from Nimishi Bastedo, Khristian Mendez and Eliza Oldach. Senior Adrian Fernandez Jauregui will introduce commencement speaker Naomi Klein, while Shira Catlin will provide welcoming remarks along with COA President Darron Collins.

Eliza Oldach transferred to COA at the beginning of her third year, and has spent her time here studying both science and stories. Included in her “eclectic education” have been journeys through New Mexico, surveys on local clam flats, reading and studying many novels and, she said, many memorable conversations with the incredible people that make up the COA community.

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Eliza Oldach

“I’m honored and nervous, as is to be expected [about speaking at commencement], but mostly very grateful to have this chance to reflect on my time at COA, and the people and experiences that have made it so remarkable,” Oldach said. “I’ll be studying marine ecology on the coast of New Zealand next year, and I am hoping to keep this sense of COA with me as I move into that adventure.”

Khristian Mendez was born in Guatemala City and lived there until he attended Mahindra United World College in India at the age of 16. He said that at COA he fully embraced the interdisciplinary approach to education, and worked hard to explore and combine his areas of interest.

“This has been both immensely challenging but also very rewarding, and provided great surprises,” he said.

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Khristian Mendez

While at COA, Mendez attended several United Nations negotiations on sustainable development and food security, interned with a UN agency, produced plays, generated posters and other graphic design work and spent many hours in the printmaking studio. He plans to teach eventually.

“Commencement at COA is one of my favorite aspects of being a student here. I appreciate the way we were involved and asked for our perspectives about our time here. This ceremony is very meaningful for most people on campus, I think. It is for sure, for me,” Mendez said. “My graduation will be a little sad, since my family can’t be here because of the distance and the visa (although I do have two lovely host parents). All in all, it’s a very special time of the year.”

Nimisha Bastedo came to COA from the Northwest Territories of Canada. She studied many things while here, including global environmental policy, food systems, ecology, and theatre, but the central thread that helped tie everything together was the educational studies program. Bastedo did her student teaching at Juniper Hill School in Alna, ME, and will be certified to teach elementary and middle school.

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Nimisha Bastedo

“Realizing that I’m drawn towards returning to Northern Canada as an educator, I did my senior project with a school in a small First Nations community there. It focused on harmonizing academic and cultural learning through experiential education on the land, and was also really valuable in helping me understand my own potential role in that context,” Bastedo said.

Her short-term plans after graduation are to take a master’s course in land-based education and to continue working with the school she partnered with for her senior project.

Like many, Shira Catlin initially came to COA for marine sciences. While she remains intrigued by marine life, she found that she was most interested in focusing on elementary education. During her time at COA, Catlin spent a lot of time in local public schools as part of the Educational Studies program.

“At COA I have enjoyed participating in the Outdoor Program and helping facilitate the outdoor orientation program. I enjoy exploring the outdoors, running, and volunteering with my two therapy dogs. My senior project merged my interested in physical education in schools and healthy living in the community. It was titled, ‘Beyond Brain Breaks: A Mind Body Balance in the Classroom and Community.’”

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Shira Catlin

Catlin said that even while she’s been at COA for four years, she has yet to attend a graduation. That is because she has always had to leave spring term a day early to start at an internship or a job.

“This will be my first COA graduation and I’m honored and excited to participate,” Catlin said. “I’m looking forward to being a part of graduation.”

Adrian Fernandez Jauregui is from Bolivia, and his senior project, entitled “Mapping the Transformation Process in Bolivia,” explored vital issues in that country. While at COA, Fernandez interned at the Maya Mountain Research Farm, in Toledo, Belize.

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Adrian Fernandez Jauregui

Commencement begins at 2 p.m on Saturday, June 6. A total of 77 students are graduating this term.


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