Butte College
News Announcement

Class of 2023 Graduate Highlights!

Reece OctoberDonovan SavageLisa ScottJose Manuel Sanchez-Martinez

Portrait of Reece OctoberReece October

Student Commencement Speaker 2023, Social and Behavioral Science,
Magna Cum Laude

Building Community & Finding Individuality

Butte College's motto is "Start here, go anywhere!" But 2023's commencement speaker Reece October's Butte College journey began more than 10,000 miles from "here" in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, with a simple Google search for American colleges. 

Determined to break free from the prescribed norms of her high school and explore the world beyond her collectivist home country, she sought an opportunity to study abroad. With Butte College appearing as one of the top search results, Reece took a leap of faith and contacted Rachel Wood, Butte's international student coordinator, to inquire about the admissions process. This initial step led her on a transformative path across geographical boundaries and cultural barriers.

Reflecting on her experience at Butte College, Reece shares, "I did some traveling in high school, and that's when I started thinking, 'Hey, what's life like outside of South Africa?' I wanted to break away from the collectivist society and find out who Reece is... At my high school, everything had to be just so, you had to wear a uniform, your hair had to be a certain way, and your nails needed to be cut. There was no room for individual expression." Her journey to Butte College became an opportunity for self-discovery and personal growth beyond the classroom.

One of the pivotal moments in Reece's journey was her involvement in Butte College's identity-based centers, where she worked as a student assistant. These centers, which celebrate diversity and inclusivity, became a catalyst for Reece's personal growth. She explains, "I had never seen anything like it before. In those centers, I learned about others, expanded my knowledge and saw community." These spaces provided her with a sense of belonging and taught her to strike a balance between her community-based upbringing and her newfound individuality. Reece emphasizes the importance of community and inclusion and says, "Butte College's commitment to practicing inclusivity is what made being an international student feel a lot less scary and a lot more like home." 

Reece acknowledges the faculty and staff who played a significant role in her journey. She says, "Butte College faculty encouraged me by providing her with professional development and training, encouraging her to come out of her shell." The guidance and support she received helped her build confidence and create a sense of family on campus.

Reece's speech echoed the values of Ubuntu, a Nguni Bantu saying from South Africa that emphasizes compassion, dignity, and community. She shares her journey of self-discovery, emphasizing the importance of education, community, and embracing one's unique path. Through her story, Reece reminds her peers of the transformative power of education, urging them to embrace the diversity of human experiences and empower one another.

After graduating, Reece will transfer to Saint Peter's University in New Jersey to pursue an accelerated master's program in industrial-organizational psychology. She hopes to work as a behavioral analyst and pursue a doctoral degree in industrial-organizational psychology to become a board-certified behavioral analyst. 

Portrait of Donovan SavageDonovan Savage

2023 Graduate,
Business Administration,
Summa Cum Laude

A Transfer Success Story

Coming out of high school, Donovan Savage had a goal in mind and a plan to reach it. His goal was to attend UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business. To get there, the Alturas, California, native knew he had to have a competitive application.

"I didn't do as well as I should have in high school," he recalled. "I knew Butte College had a strong transfer rate into the UC system and that I would have a higher chance of being accepted into Berkeley as a transfer student." Donovan enrolled at Butte College in the fall of 2021 and began working towards his associate degree in business administration.

He recalls an early hurdle he encountered when he got a C on an algebra exam. Rather than feeling deterred, he said the experience was a wake-up call and a motivation to study harder and apply himself. This spring, Donovan will graduate with a 4.0-grade point average and an acceptance letter to UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business, among other prestigious four-year schools.

Reflecting on the support from faculty and staff at Butte College, Donovan says they helped him stay the course and reach his ultimate goal. He credits transfer counselor Doug Minton with helping him map his course schedule to meet the transfer requirements for a UC and his Phi Theta Kappa advisor Brian Donnelly with making sure he had a competitive application.

"The college's start here, go anywhere motto is true," he said. "If you set goals, stay focused and remember why you're here, there's nothing you can't achieve." Donovan will transfer to UC Berkeley this fall to pursue his bachelor's degree. He hopes to work as an analyst for a financial institution.

Portrait of Lisa ScottLisa Scott

2023 Graduate,
Social and Behavioral Science

An Advocate for Others Reaches a Milestone

"Life wasn't always good for me," reflects Lisa Scott as she looks back on her challenging journey to reach her current position. "But I look at where I am and what I've accomplished, and I know I made it."

At 61, following a long career in social services, Lisa recently obtained her associate degree in social and behavioral sciences, opening up a new opportunity for her as a manager at Alliance for Workforce Development.

Lisa's Butte College journey began in 1998 when she was required to take early childhood education courses for her job at Glenn County Head Start. "I never saw myself as 'college material,'" she admits. "But those early courses were encouraging." She continued taking additional courses beyond her employer's requirements until she got to her GE math class. "It might as well have been a foreign language," she exclaimed. Deterred by this and needing to focus on her career and family, she stopped attending.

Over the next two decades, Lisa returned to Butte College multiple times while juggling single motherhood and a series of jobs advocating for children, foster youth, and adults seeking career development. "Every time I would get to the semester when I needed to take that math class, I'd find a reason to step away." During this time, she shared her experiences with Nip Boyes, the former assistant director of health services at Butte College, who encouraged her to visit the Disabled Student Programs and Services office. "This was a turning point," she remembered. "I was diagnosed with ADD and given the proper support to succeed." She recalls crying when she earned a B on her first math test.

In 2018, one semester away from completing an associate degree for transfers and transferring to Chico State, Lisa was given an opportunity to move into a lead role working with survivors of the Camp Fire. "I had to take it," she said. "I needed to help this population." Once again, she placed her education on hold. Lisa had gone as far as she could in her career without earning a degree. When a management position became available, she had the experience and expertise necessary despite lacking the required degree. She convinced herself to speak with a Butte College counselor to review her coursework and was surprised to learn that the courses she had taken, which she considered a mere "smattering of college courses," fulfilled the requirements for an associate degree in social and behavioral sciences. Armed with this knowledge, she applied for graduation and the manager position.

"I want others to know that it doesn't matter how old you are," she concluded. "If you want it bad enough and are willing to work for it, you can reach your goals."

Portrait of Jose as ke speaks at a podiumJose Manuel Sanchez-Martinez

2023 Latinx Graduation Student Speaker,
Political Science,
Cum Laude

A First-Generation Student in Pursuit of Excellence

"My parents constantly reminded me that I was delving into a territory they had no knowledge of. They would help me every step of the way, but they had no answers for me." Jose Manuel Sanchez-Martinez's experience represents that of many Latinx and first-generation students who navigate the college system without the guidance of generational experience.

His journey began in the fall of 2021, immediately after graduating high school. This spring, he graduated with honors and will soon transfer to UC Davis to pursue his bachelor's degree in political science. With his sights set on attending law school after earning his bachelor's degree.

Reflecting on his time at Butte College, Jose shared, "I joined Butte College fresh out of high school. I had a general idea of what I wanted to do but wasn't fully certain... We are given the opportunity to 'be anything.' Sometimes, that scope is too wide."

"Navigating Butte College seemed like a daunting task," he continued. "With hundreds of classrooms, dozens of buildings and five parking lots, it's easy to lose your place. The first few weeks, I clung to my map like a lifeline. More daunting than physically navigating, however, is mentally navigating the college system." Jose found support in the College's abundance of resources and extracurricular activities. "If you are confused or have a question, there is someone on campus who can help answer your question or point you in the right direction."

At Butte College, Jose actively engaged in various aspects of campus life. He immersed himself in extracurricular activities, recognizing their potential to enhance his college experience. "Extracurriculars are where I found the most fulfillment out of my time." One of his most impactful involvements was the speech and debate team. "Joining the speech and debate team allowed me to travel across the country, meet amazing people and win shiny trophies, all while practicing my critical communication skills."

"Beyond his impressive competitive record, Jose demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities," added his coach, Shannan Troxel-Andreas. "Helping new students, workshopping creative ideas and volunteering whenever a need arose."

His engaging performances were featured at numerous speech showcases and campus events. Furthermore, Jose played an instrumental role as a key organizer for the Northern California Truck Club, showcasing his ability to advocate for causes and bring others together.

As Jose approaches the end of his journey at Butte College, he reflects on his motivations, saying, "My mom's dream was to go to post-secondary education, but due to her circumstances, it was never possible... I know that many of my fellow students empathize with this feeling. Which is why I have worked so hard to be here, standing among students who have done just as much, if not more, to be here with us." These words underscore Jose's appreciation for the sacrifices made by his parents and his dedication to creating opportunities for himself and others.

Jose Sanchez-Martinez stands as an example of determination, resilience and the power of embracing opportunities amidst unfamiliar territory. As he prepares to embark on the next chapter of his academic journey at UC Davis, he will undoubtedly continue to make a lasting impact and inspire those around him with his unwavering pursuit of excellence.

Media Contact

Christian Gutierrez

Public Relations Officer


Butte College
3536 Butte Campus Drive
Oroville, CA 95965