2021 Commencement Speakers
Tay Zonday '04
Tay Zonday is a People’s Choice Award-Nominated, Youtube Award-Winning, Webby Award-Winning singer-songwriter, voice talent, brand spokesperson, advocate, host and digital industry veteran seen in more than a billion Youtube views.
Zonday blasted into the worldwide spotlight with his viral hit “Chocolate Rain” and has appeared on Steve Harvey, Good Morning America, Jimmy Kimmel, America’s Got Talent, NPR, CNN, MTV, The BBC, Comedy Central’s Tosh.0, Rachel Ray, and TMZ Live. He’s been interviewed on the front page of Sunday’s Los Angeles Times as well as in The Chicago Tribune, The Toronto Star, USA Today, In Touch Weekly, Wired Magazine and dozens of independent and university publications. He has been referenced in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, People Magazine, The HuffPost, Mashable and by pop-culture touchstones such as "South Park," “Saturday Night Live,” "Robot Chicken," "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia," "Girlfriends," "Guitar Hero World Tour," and “The Today Show” as well as by luminaries such as Kobe Bryant, John Mayer, Tre Cool, Kanye West and Stephen Colbert.
With a baritone voice that is often compared to Paul Robeson, Barry White, and Brad Roberts of the “Crash Test Dummies,” Zonday also does commercial voice and spokesperson work for a growing portfolio of clients that have included DrPepper, Intel, Intuit, Comedy Central, Cartoon Network, Firefox, Geico, Vizio, Hasbro, Hostess, Virgin America, NASA, Toyota, Discovery and Major League Baseball.
Zonday continues to release original music, write a memoir, teach, consult and race toward a future filled with possibility.
Hailey Salazar (she/her) is a Yo’eme/Apache scholar working to revitalize Indigenous Knowledge Systems through her passions in traditional medicines & arts, environmental activism, policy, and education. She graduated from Evergreen, December 2020, in Indigenous Studies focusing on Indigenous Medicine and Music.
In Teachings of the Tree People, Hailey created an artistic film, Sacred Waters, to raise awareness of the political, ecological dangers and consequences of the LNG Export Terminal being illegally built on Puyallup land on Commencement Bay Estuary, while honoring the elements. Hailey’s basketry has been featured in exhibits highlighting the importance of estuaries.
As the medicine carrier for her lineage, Hailey cares deeply for the Earth and her inhabitants. This responsibility fuels Hailey’s actions, including work on new green energy technologies, and fundraising for Indigenous artists, Amazonian clean water access, Guatemalan landslide recovery, community herbal care, among other causes. Hailey is involved in advocacy on behalf of plant medicines and plant preservation.
Hailey is now a Master’s student in Arizona State University’s Indigenous Education program.
In 2019, Benjamin graduated with a BA from the Evergreen State College – Tacoma. Before graduating, he was informed that Evergreen was bringing the MPA Program to the Tacoma campus. After researching what public administration entailed, he was excited and eager to apply to the program. He was accepted and never looked back.
Benjamin is an Operational Coordinator for Comprehensive Life Resources. He is also the Racial Equity Chair for the Road home: Tacoma/Lakewood Pierce County Continuum of Care.
Benjamin believes in reciprocity. Everything he achieves to be is based on giving back to a community that is struggling to hold on to an identity that is being eradicated through gentrification and white privilege. Benjamin is passionate to help at-risk youth and adults find alternative means to becoming financially, mentally, and physically capable to a sustainable living without the fear of death, incarceration, homelessness, and hopelessness. Benjamin uses critical thinking and design thinking as a base to encompassing equity as a method to creating equality for the public he serves.
Benjamin is a father of 3 boys who inspired him to never give up and embrace the struggles, sacrifices, and failures in life that will drive you to reach all your goals and dreams.
Ruth Hayes & Laurie Meeker
Ruth Hayes joined the Evergreen faculty in 1997, and has been teaching animation theory and practice in broadly interdisciplinary contexts. Her creative research involves animated experiments in film, video and digital media as well as flipbooks and other pre-cinema formats. Ruth earned her MFA in Experimental Animation at California Institute of the Arts in 1992, and her BA in Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard College in 1978.
Laurie Meeker joined the Evergreen faculty in 1989 and has been teaching filmmaking and documentary studies in the Media Arts and Studies Path as well as in interdisciplinary programs involving education, political economy, feminist theory, and visual arts. Laurie’s documentary film work includes a multi-generational project covering the struggle of the River People in the Mid-Columbia River area to sustain their traditional fishing, root gathering, and hunting practices as protected by the treaties, co-directed with Lavina Washines of the Kahmiltpah Band, Yakama Nation. Laurie earned her MFA in Film Production from The University of British Columbia (1985) and her BA in Film Production/Still Photography from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale (1980).
Ruth and Laurie collaborated to produce their graduation speech, recording it in Evergreen’s Center for Creative and Applied Media. They took the opportunity to highlight some of their students’ creative work by integrating images into their speech.