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Blackhawk Tech graduates include displaced workers

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Ted Sullivan
May 16, 2010
— When Camalee Chroninger-Hefty was laid off from Lear Corp, she got a second chance.

“I always wanted to go back to school,” she said. “It just took the loss of a job to push me.”


She studied early childhood education, had her first baby and raised him alone after her husband transferred to the General Motors plant in Kansas City, Kan. It wasn’t easy.


In the end, she said being among the 268 Blackhawk Technical College graduates Saturday was worth it. She and other displaced workers were optimistic that their diplomas would help them reinvent their careers.


Blackhawk Tech has seen an enrollment boom because of displaced workers seeking an education. Many laid-off workers chose to attend college because of a lack of job opportunities.


They had hoped the economy would turn around by the time they graduated. Several middle-age graduates had not been in the classroom since high school.


“What else was I going to do? There wasn’t a lot of jobs out there for 400 people at one time,” Chroninger-Hefty said. “It’s been a crazy whirlwind transition for a lot of people in this community.”


During the graduation ceremony, just as many older graduates walked across the stage as younger graduates. Many had kids. Speakers praised the accomplishments of graduates who finished school during difficult economic times.


Tina March, a criminal justice graduate, said she also had been laid off at Lear. She had been there eight years. She is happy about her new career choice, even though it’s a tough job market.


“It’s scary,” March said. “I just don’t think there are enough jobs out there.”


Chris Pope, a business management graduate, said she went to Blackhawk Tech after 14 years at Lear. She wants to open her own cosmetology business. She said she doesn’t miss Lear and is happier than ever.


After the ceremony, the cheers were raucous. Graduates hugged and took pictures. They made plans for celebratory gatherings.


Chroninger-Hefty said she plans to join her husband in Kansas City. Once there, she hopes to earn her bachelor’s degree. Eventually, she would like to open her own preschool.


“I think in the end this will be the best thing that happens to me,” Chroninger-Hefty said.


AT A GLANCE

Some Blackhawk Technical College graduation facts


Number of graduates: 268


Featured speaker: Tiffaney Beverly-Malott, a former unskilled laborer turned businesswoman and author.


Vocalist: Ivy Wolf, a Blackhawk Tech student, who sang “America the Beautiful.”


Location: The ceremony was held at the Beloit Dream Center.



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