Meet the two 2024 grads who will speak at MCC commencement May 16

May 14, 2024 | Tim Engle

A graduating-student speaker is a relatively new Metropolitan Community College commencement tradition — it dates back only to 2018, when there was one annual ceremony and therefore one student speaker. A second same-day ceremony was added in 2023, hence a second student speaker. The speakers rotate by campus: this year, from MCC-Longview and MCC-Blue River. MCC’s 2024 commencement ceremonies are set for 1 and 6 p.m. Thursday, May 16, at Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence.


Darelle Wabo, 1 p.m. speaker

Darelle WaboIt would be challenging to find someone more active on campus than Darelle Wabo, student speaker at the 1 p.m. ceremony, but it didn’t start out that way.

After graduating from Lee’s Summit West High School in 2022, “I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life” and she wasn't sure about community college. But her mom, who studied here to become a registered nurse, told her that MCC offers a good, affordable education, and peers mentioned that community college is “a great place to figure out who you are.”

Wabo turned a corner her second semester at MCC-Longview after joining “a multitude of clubs” and the Student Government Association. In SGA, she held pretty much all the positions, including president. “I felt an innate call to leadership,” she says, because during group projects, fellow students would turn to her to get organized.

Two of her campus causes involved food: collecting petition signatures for hot lunch options from new vendors, and working with student clubs to raise money and hold donation drives for Longview’s food pantry. Wabo, 20, has also worked as a tutor in the writing studio at Longview.

These days the initially reluctant community college student is “actually sad thinking about leaving. It makes me wanna cry.” She’ll continue her studies at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg. The plan: to become an IT product or project manager.

Arriving here, she was timid, shy and uncertain. “And now I’m known for being very extroverted and funny.” What a difference two years can make.


Erin Fox, 6 p.m. speaker

Erin FoxIf today’s the day everything goes south, you could do a lot worse than having Erin Fox, 6 p.m. student speaker, come to your rescue.

“I’m very good at organizing chaos, and I’m a bit of an adrenalin junkie,” she says. If she sees a wreck, she will stop to help.

If you’re thinking Fox would make an excellent police officer, she’s one step ahead of you. She graduated from MCC-Blue River’s Police Academy in December 2023 with a police science certificate and is pursuing a career in law enforcement. Dream job: flying a police chopper. “Throw me in the cockpit any day,” Fox says. “Give me a helicopter to fight crime with.”

Did we mention her extensive military background and experience with Black Hawk helicopters?

Yes, she spent 14-1/2 years serving her country, mostly in the Army but a smidge in the Navy. She completed her basic training in August 2001 — the summer between her junior and senior years of high school. Just over a month later: the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Fox would go on to be stationed around the country and spend a year in Afghanistan, where “coming under fire was a regular thing.” The former combat pilot points out that only the underside of helicopters is armor-plated, and to the enemy, a chopper with a red cross on it just meant “They won’t shoot back.”

It's not surprising that at MCC’s police academy, Fox — now 40 and a stay-at-home mom of three for about a decade — was “top shot” in firearms in her class of seven. She was also the only woman. “I’ve been kind of used to that in my military career,” she says.