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UW-Rock County graduates told to take risks, give back and be kind

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Andrea Anderson
Wednesday, May 20, 2015

JANESVILLE—In her first UW System commencement address, new UW Colleges Chancellor Cathy Sandeen gave graduates from UW-Rock County's Class of 2015 three things to remember during their lives.

1. Take risks

2. Give back

3. Be kind

Those three things will lead to a rich and rewarding life, Sandeen told graduates and their family and friends who filled the school's Frank Holt Gymnasium on Tuesday evening.

Seventy of the school's 160 graduates took part in the ceremony.

On Tuesday, student speaker Alley Balmer told her fellow graduates that she was scared when she first set foot on campus two years ago. She equated her experience to being a fish thrown into "a bowl of new experiences."

At first you're alone, until you form a school of fish and coast along until the giant wave that is finals hits and you think, “Why are you paying to be crying at one in the morning?” Balmer said.

When finals are done and you see your grades, you realize you can do it, and that you can succeed, she said.

Balmer told the crowd that after finishing her first year of school, her mindset was “I can do college. I can conquer this ocean.”


In the lobby of Wells Cultural Center stood Raquel Alamillo-Cottle, trying to make balance hair-to-cap ratio with the help of three men.

The 40-year-old Lake Geneva resident started at UW-Rock in June 2013, six days after retiring from her 20-year career as a flight attendant for American Airlines.

Alamillo-Cottle now plans to attend George Williams College in Williams Bay, where she plans to get her master's degree in social work after three years. She hopes to help families wade through the adoption process, something she and her husband, Alan Cottle, currently are going through.

Among her favorite memories from UW-Rock is watching old movies with her 8-year-old stepdaughter as part of her film class.

Alan Cottle is proud of his wife.

“I'm very proud of her for her hard work and dedication,” he said with a big smile on his face. “When you're 19 years old you go to college because it's what you're expected to do. When you're 40, you go back because it's what you want to do.”


Down the hall in the cap and gown room stood Victor and Jose Moreno, two cousins whose family originates from La Estancia, Mexico.

Next to them stood Moises Alamanza, whose family is from La Luz, Mexico, a short walk from La Estancia.

Despite the three growing up in South Beloit, Illinois, and having some family members from each side mingling with the others, the graduates had never met until two years ago when they started at UW-Rock.

“We're family,” all three said.

On Tuesday, they graduated side-by-side.

“During the last two years, we have been family oriented and showing everyone that we are wanting to be something better,” Alamanza said.


Many students choose UW-Rock for its smaller class sizes and for more one-on-one time with professors.

Sydney Winchester of Beloit went to UW-Madison for three semesters before taking a semester off and enrolling at UW-Rock.

Winchester said she went from classes with 300 people to those with 35, and that the professors at UW-Rock really took the time to show they were invested in the success of their students.

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