Jobs, dreams, big plans: Blackhawk students graduate

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Sunday, May 19, 2013

— It was standing room only at the Dream Center in Beloit on Saturday.

The event was the Blackhawk Technical College graduation, and nearly 440 students were eligible to cross the stage to get their diplomas.

Graduation might be the single thing they had in common. Their ages, goals, backgrounds, degrees and job prospects were as varied as the shoes they wore under their graduation gowns.

Highlights of the event included:

n Speech by John Peralta, Blackhawk Technical College student of the year. Peralta praised students for facing the greatest challenges of their lives, including “stepping outside their comfort zones,” “giving a speech in front of people for the first time” or “writing an eight-page paper after your cellphone goes off in Mr. Gile’s class.”

Peralta recognized that many of his classmates went to school—and had families and jobs. They had to be especially focused.

“We had to become intentional in what we needed to do,” Peralta said.

n A speech by Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville. Cullen told students they were part of the new economy. They would need the ability to adapt to the accelerated speed of change.

But that’s something they already knew, or else they would not have been graduating Saturday.

“You have figured out what everybody else has to figure out,” Cullen said.

n Sharing graduation—and classes—with a family member. Jeff Usher, Milton, graduated Saturday with honors in the field of electro-mechanical technology.

It took him almost 10 years to get all the credits for the associate’s degree that will help him in his job at Spacesaver in Fort Atkinson.

His daughter, Yvette La Pen-Usher, will graduate from Milton High School in 17 days.

“She was my study buddy all the time I was in school,” Usher said.

This past year, Yvette shared a sociology class with her father. She was participating in a program that allows high school students to take classes at the technical college.

Who was a better student?

“I was,” Usher said, and laughed.

n Degrees granted in 46 fields. Students were graduating with associate degrees in fields ranging from information systems security specialist to culinary arts and electric power distribution to fire science.

Students were already making plans for the next steps in their careers. A group of early childhood graduates said they planned to get teaching degrees or seek additional certification.

Many of those who weren’t going on for additional education already had jobs lined up.

Culinary arts graduate Lindsay Liss had a job as a baker at Lake Lawn Resort in Delavan. Steven Peabody, who retired from General Motors in 2009, was starting his second career as a chef at Helgesen’s Harpos, Janesville

Last updated: 10:34 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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