‘It’s never too late’: KBOCC valedictorian earns degree 30 years later

KBOCC valedictorian earns degree 30 years later

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College graduates Cindy Wiltse, Angel Loonsfoot, Kristin Sullivan, Angela Dickson, Jeanne Emery, Danielle Hueckstaedt, Zelina Huhta, Joshua Robinson, Shawn Seppanen and Brent Waranka received their degrees during a commencement ceremony Saturday.

BARAGA — Ten graduates crossed the stage during Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College’s spring commencement.

The students’ work was the result of many months of commitment, self-discipline and diligence, said Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Tribal President Doreen Blaker.

“In addition, you have developed and improved your abilities in communication, critical thinking, teamwork, problem solving and adaptability,” she said. “These are essential skills that will help you navigate along the path of life … I hope every chapter of your life will be as rewarding as your time at KBOCC.”

This year’s valedictorian was Jeanne Emery. She went back to college after more than 30 years to get her degree in business administration. Emery has worked for the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community for 34 years in the Motor Vehicle/Licensing Department.

After four semesters at Michigan Technological University, she left to take care of family members.

In 2016, her daughter Tashina Emery, a faculty member at the college, encouraged her to take her administration course. She didn’t cut her mother any slack.

“I almost lost my 4.0 to my own daughter,” she said.

Emery kept the 4.0. She reminisced about her experiences as a KBOCC student, which included a trip to the American Indian Higher Ed Consortium (AIHEC) student conference in Albuquerque.

Her advice to people considering going back for a degree: “It’s never too late.”

Also graduating Saturday were: Angela Dickson (business administration), Danielle Hueckstaedt (business administration), Zelina Huhta (environmental science), Angel Loonsfoot (liberal studies), Joshua Robinson (environmental science), Shawn Seppanen (environmental science), Kristin Sullivan (liberal studies with a health sciences emphasis), Brent Waranka (environmental science) and Cindy Wiltse (Anishinaabe studies).

After the ceremony, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community color guard and faculty lined up on either side to welcome the graduates as they filed out. As the graduates left, they moved on to the next room to shake hands or hug members of the crowd.

Loonsfoot hadn’t known what to do after high school, so she decided to pursue education closer to home. After this, she’s going on to Northern Michigan University to get a degree in exercise science.

“I learned that I really could do anything I put my mind to,” she said.


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