SMC graduating 87 with honors

DOWAGIAC — “I’m standing here today at only 18 years old as the first in my family to graduate from college,” said Jossalyn Rogalski, Southwestern Michigan College’s student speaker for May 12’s Outstanding Graduate Reception.

“I’ll be honest, I couldn’t have afforded most colleges’ tuitions,” she said. “The ability to attend college is such a privilege that not many are able to attain because of its cost. SMC’s affordability probably meant a lot to all of us, but in addition, SMC provides opportunities to earn college credit while still in high school, which benefited me tremendously. I was lucky enough to become part of the Early Middle College program while I was only in ninth grade at Dowagiac Union High School, and for that I will be eternally grateful.

“As a result,” the honors program participant said, “I did not have to spend a single dollar of my own to graduate with my associate degree. If students are concerned about costs, dedication and a strong work ethic can lead to success. That’s certainly the case for me. Another reason I love SMC is because it truly does feel like home, which I feel is rare for most students at college. I grew up attending school in Dowagiac. All extra-curricular events seemed to be held here on campus. I can recall Young Writers, Math-A-Rama, the spelling bee and countless Educational Talent Search activities from sixth grade until high school graduation.”

Rogalski, who landed a full-ride Western Michigan University scholarship to finish her bachelor’s degree in biology, said, “This campus has witnessed my growth from a child to a young adult. Dr. (Keith) Howell, dean of theschool of arts and sciences, was one of the judges in my middle school science fair and played a part when I got third place in eighth grade. I also only recently realized that two of my professors, Tom Beaven and Dr. Doug Schauer, also judged that day, along with Donna Courtney. SMC had my back, even when I didn’t realize it. Southwestern Michigan College will always hold a dear place in my heart due to the many lessons I’ve learned while attending.

“As graduates, we should never forget that the road here was not always easy. One thing I’ve learned throughout school and life in general was summed up well in a quote by Zig Ziglar: ‘There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.’ We must give it our all, even in hard times, for life to be better in the future. Perseverance is key to winning life.”

“When I feel my lowest,” Rogalski added, “I try to remember a quote by Rick Rigsby,” author of Lessons from a Third Grade Dropout. “Wisdom will come from the unlikeliest of sources, a lot of times from failure. When you hit rock bottom remember this: When you are struggling, rock bottom can also be a great foundation on which to build and to grow.”

“We’re so excited about being able to celebrate our graduates and to give them the credit they deserve for going through perhaps the most difficult year in 100 years in terms of pursuing education,” said President Dr. Joe Odenwald to open the outdoor ceremony in Alumni Plaza on the Dowagiac campus.

The 87 students graduating with honors at SMC’s 54th Commencement May 14-15 were recognized for earning cumulative grade-point averages of 3.5 or higher:

Cole Alwine, Rebecca Ashby, Harleigh Besaw, Jessica Blank, Nicole Bourgeois, Hunter Brackensick, Caleigh Campbell, Daniel Cerda, Abbey Churney, Abbagale Clark, Autumn Clark, Tamia Clay, Rose Colburn, Phillip Cooper, Elijah Craft, William Craft, Payton, Crume, Brittany Dano, Ashley Davis, Jovani Diaz-Calderon, Cody Dorman, Erin Dougherty, Tyler Dutoi, Leah Eaton, Melanie Edmond, Hilbert Evans, Sarah Evilsizor, Kailey Fear, Isabelle Ferguson and Kayla Fleisher.

Also: Hunter Geisler, Mary Gill, Nathaniel Gonder, Jacob Good, Mallory Gray, Adaline Griffiths, Julian Hicks, Morgan Hoard, Daniel Hollister, Brooke Johnson, Thierry Kenko, Delaney Klitchman, Samuel Kurtzweil, Alison Lamoreaux, Heather Lindsley, Alexia Lopez, Dalia Lopez, Samuel Loveing, Grant Lubbert, Camila Mancera, Taylor Masse, Christi McCarey, Gilberto Meza, Racheal Mmanga, Wyatt Noack, Colby Ogrin, Elizabeth Ojeda, Meghan Olmsted, Amy Pachay and Ana Peek.

And: Amber Poling, Lauren Rakowski, Michael Robles, Jossalyn Rogalski, Josiah Rohl, Destiny Russell, Julia Eva Rydin, Zachary Sackrider, Nickolas Saltzman, Jonathan Sandoval, Lauren Schaer, Carson Schiele, Jared Sergio, Jarold Siguenza, Bailey Snow, Lydia Sommer, Maria Springs, Ellie Stankiewicz, Katlynne Stephan, Rebecca Swartz, Karielle Talbert, Brookelyn Tidd, Megan Tobias, Abigail Trecartin, Mikaela Valdez, Austin Wilkosz and Sarah Wold.

SMC Select Voices, conducted by Professor David Carew, choral director, performed “Wide Open Spaces,” “Lovely Day” and the alma mater. SMC Brass Band, directed by Assistant Professor Mark Hollandsworth, band director, played during the preceding social time.

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