May 12, 2013 - By Christina George, Staff WriterA few months ago at a Central Wyoming College input session, student senate president Garret VonKrosigk told faculty members that graduation, although is an accomplishment and does matter, wasn't as significant to him as what would follow.
For VonKrosigk, the decision to attend CWC was to be a stepping stone before transitioning to a university.
He told the other 300 graduates assembled on the stage Friday night at the Robert A. Peck Arts Center Theatre and the family and friends gathered in the audience that earning a degree has different meanings for people.
"We're all here for our own individual goals and aspirations," he said.
For VonKrosigk, his associate's degree in engineering will help him continue his education.
"Behind me sit nurses, mechanics, technical majors and many more who are about to walk across this stage and be handed keys to their careers, and that's truly exciting," VonKrosigk said. "For the rest of us who have decided to endure the pain and continue on for a few more years at different schools, one thing is true for all of us, this graduation undoubtedly marks a turning point in our lives."
He said while it's unlikely a graduate will change the world in any measurable way, he believes he or she can and should work to change their own world.
"What I mean is, use those unique ambitions and motivations that have got you to this point to achieve your goals.
"More importantly, have a positive impact on those around you on a daily basis," he said. "Who knows, you may end up influencing them in a profound way. And even though you did not change the world, I can promise you that all of us working together to be a positive influence will have a real and genuine impact on our society."
At the start of the commencement, CWC President Jo Anne McFarland talked about the "tank" of a podium she stood at to give her speech.
"It's holding a lot of hardware that we're going to be giving out tonight," she said, referring to the degree certificates.
At every graduation, McFarland, who was recognized earlier in the day for her 40 years of service to the college, gives a rundown about the graduating class.
The Class of 2013, McFarland said, includes the college's first three film production program graduates and the first two graduates of the outdoor education program.
She noted how graduation this year was a family affair, including one woman who "was so organized" she had her baby during spring break, never missing a class. The woman attended college with two sisters, and they formed a study group and support system to get through the year.
Some graduates attended school with their children, or even their parents. Others attended while also having responsibilities that come with being a single parent. For some families, McFarland said, Friday's graduation was a first.
Several graduates, McFarland continued, are CWC employees -- including a woman who began taking courses in 1989.
In total, 301 students received degrees, certificates or credentials. Students were represented from 31 states and four foreign countries. Seventy-three percent are Wyoming residents, and 55 percent reside in Fremont County.
McFarland said 11 percent of the class earned a GED through CWC's adult basic education program. Twenty-five percent started their college education with dual-enrollment credits while still in high school. Together, such students earned 979 college credits before high school graduation, which is 16 percent more than last year's class.
Nearly 18 percent of the graduates are Hathaway Scholarship recipients.
This year's graduates range from ages 18 to 61. The average age is 29.
McFarland said those with a college degree will earn 35 percent more than those who only hold a high school diploma.
"College really does give you a leg up, even in a lagging job market," she said.
She recalled that when she started at CWC four decades ago, high school graduates could compete for three out of four jobs. By 2018, that ratio falls to one out of four jobs.
"College is no longer a nice thing to have," McFarland said. "It's absolutely essential."
Executive vice president of academic and student services Jason Wood introduced the nine valedictorians: Abigail Ehlers, Macey Fegler, Craig Haslam, Kali Howe, Tetiana Hutchison, Rachel Lamb, Jonathan Rasbach, Jordan Stapley and Kaitlyn Tracy.
"These students have varied interests and backgrounds ... but they all worked hard," Wood said.
Lamb said her associate degree will not be her last.
"One degree down and five more to go," she said to a cheering crowd.
Haslam, who also is the Fremont County Fire District chief, said he was thankful for the daily reminder from the younger students to live with enthusiasm.
"I like to live my life where I learn something every day," he said.
Hutchison, who was among the 40 graduates from a foreign country, said she liked the small class sizes at CWC.
"Tetiana was in the Ukraine," Wood said. "She just picked a place, and it was Riverton."
Stapley's journey to CWC also was rather random. She grew tired of feeling like a "number" at a larger Montana school. Some of her friends had also referenced the Wind River Mountains.
"Jordan said choosing CWC was an accident," Wood said. "After driving by CWC on a random summer afternoon, she decided to apply. It was the best coincidence she has ever had in her life."
Get your copy of The Ranger online, every day! If you are a current print subscriber and want to also access dailyranger.com online (there is nothing more to purchase) including being able to download The Mining and Energy Edition, click here. Looking to start a new online subscription to dailyranger.com (even if it is for just one day)? Access our secure SSL encrypted server and start your subscription now by clicking here.