LMC students to share personal stories at 2016 commencement

BENTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Stephen Venable of Lawrence and Aiden Weston of St. Joseph have been selected as the student speakers for Lake Michigan College’s 69th annual commencement exercise being held at the LMC Mendel Center at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 1.

Stephen Venable will graduate with highest honors and an Associate Degree in Applied Science – Nursing.

When Stephen Venable lost his mother to cancer three years ago, he was inspired and comforted by the nurses at Lakeland Health, particularly the male nurses. Though he had taken classes at Lake Michigan College while he was a high school student, it wasn’t until he became a full-time LMC student that he began to realize that he had the chance to make a difference in others’ lives the way the nurses at Lakeland made a difference in his life and the lives of his family. He enrolled in the nursing program, and says that it has been a challenge well worth the effort.

Venable cites the instructors as the best part of attending LMC. Anatomy and physiology instructor Frank Stijnman helped his confidence during tougher times. And he says of Nursing Program Director Kathleen Szymanski that “her mixture of knowledge and compassion is what I think of as the ideal for a nurse.”

Encouraged by last year’s student commencement speaker to try out for the honor this year, Venable has been recognized several other times during his career at LMC. He was selected to serve as the Student Nurse Representative to the nursing faculty, and he was awarded the Spirit of Nursing Award by the nursing faculty for his demonstration of the highest levels of competency in the practice and art of nursing. He was also a member of Phi Theta Kappa.

Venable has been hired at the medical oncology unit at Lakeland Health – the same one where his mother was treated. He loves the compassionate, holistic side of being a nurse, and plans to eventually decide whether to pursue a career as a medical doctor.

Aiden Weston graduated with honors in Fall of 2014 with an associate in science degree, and in Fall of 2015 with honors and an associate in applied business degree in Computer Information Systems – Networking.

Weston grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, where he was an enthusiastic math student for as long as he can remember, even tutoring other students since he was in the 4th grade. When he moved to southwest Michigan 5 years ago to spend time with family, he decided to pursue a mathematics degree, and then a computer information systems degree, at Lake Michigan College.

Going through some culture shock from the move, along with attending college as a non-traditional student, the outgoing Weston confidently accepted the challenge of meeting people at LMC. He became president of the honor society, Phi Theta Kappa, where he learned leadership skills, and met people both at PTK events, and because other students recognized him from photos.

Weston also has made personal connections with his instructors. Computer Information Systems Instructor Shawn Hisle, in particular mentored him in and out of class, as well as math instructors Chris Bendixen and Jim Larson, both of whom Weston respected for their ability to make math fun.

Weston wanted to speak at Commencement for the challenge of it, and also to assure his fellow students that though plans don’t always go the way you expect them to, things can still work out well. He says that he brings a different perspective, being a southerner in the north, and being a little older than many other students in his classes, that he wants to share with his classmates.

The student commencement speaker is selected each year by a panel of LMC faculty and staff members from among those graduates who enter the annual commencement speaker competition.

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