MONMOUTH -- When she was a high school senior in Edmonds, Wash., Marcella Flores was required to complete 90 hours of community service to graduate.
She worked at a food bank ... "and decided I didn't want to finish my time," Flores said. "My principal signed off on them and I thought that was cool.
If she could encounter that younger, "selfish" Marcella, Flores said she would probably grab and shake her.
"It's fun to look back sometimes," said Flores, who after coming to Western Oregon University has become a constant volunteer for the homeless and handicapped. "I'm a different person now."
Flores will graduate with a bachelor's degree in American Sign Language/English interpreting and will speak at commencement on Saturday, June 11, as the winner of the Julia McCulloch Smith Award as the school's outstanding female student.
"I had no idea I would be getting something like this when I came to WOU," she said. "And I certainly never thought I would leave with an award ... it's humbling."
Flores, who studied sign language in high school, came to WOU to major in business and took an ASL class for fun. She developed an affinity and kinship with the campus' deaf community.
Flores, a first-generation student, also got involved with the university's service learning office. As a sophomore, she worked at a homeless shelter for youths in San Diego.
"I knew then that was what I wanted to do the rest of my life," she said.
Subsequent trips followed to another homeless shelter in San Francisco. Last year, Flores traveled to Seabeck, Wash., to assist at a deaf and blind camp for kids.
She recently completed an ASL interpreting internship in Baltimore, where she worked with freelance interpreters in an inner city school and hospital.
Flores will enroll at Oregon State University this fall to pursue a master's degree in education and college student services; she wants to work in a service learning setting at a university.
Volunteering "has helped change my perspective about the world and it makes me appreciate my education," she said.
There's still another trip to take. Flores will spend this summer at an orphanage and boarding school in Tanzania, teaching children how to use computers.
While it sounds cliche, Flores said college has done exactly what it's supposed to.
"It's helped me grow," she said. "I've met a lot of great people here who have taught me about myself."
WOU's Class of 2011
* The commencement ceremony for Western Oregon University's graduating Class of 2011 will take place at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 11, at McArthur Field in Monmouth.
Gates open for seating at 9 a.m. No tickets are required for the ceremony, which lasts about 2« hours.
The guest speaker will be Congressman Kurt Schrader.
For those wishing to watch the ceremony indoors, there will be limited seating inside the New Physical Education Building gymnasium. Call 503-838-8481 to make arrangements.
Marcella Flores and other students, as well as faculty, will be honored during the event. They include:
* Justin Karr -- Recipient of the Delmer Dewey Award for outstanding male student. Karr was a psychology major in the Honors Program, as well as a track and field athlete.
* Emily Trigg -- Recipient of the Outstanding Graduate Student Award. A math major, Trigg earned her master's degree in teaching.