More than 830 graduates celebrated their academic success at Ridgewater College last week. Graduates and their families and friends joined together with Ridgewater faculty and staff to honor student achievements last Thursday at the McLeod County Fairgrounds in Hutchinson and Friday at the Willmar Civic Center.
Approximately 350 eligible graduates participated in ceremonies with packed venues of family and friends. Ridgewater employees shared a collective round of applause that made many in the graduate processional smile in thanks at the ceremonies.
Hutchinson Student Senate President Samuel Choy of Bloomington delivered the student address in Hutchinson. The Marketing and Sales Management graduate shared a motivational message with tips for graduates heading into their next chapters. “I want you all to remember.: 1. Never give up, 2. Be better 1% every day, and 3. Every day is a good ol’ day.” He highlighted how time is not certain for anyone and how a positive mindset can help people push forward with their eyes on the prize.
At the Willmar commencement, the student speaker was Ridgewater Student Ambassador Juan Santiago Espinosa Hernandez, Mexico and Kerkhoven, graduating with a Liberal Arts and Sciences Associate’s degree.
“No matter if you are continuing your academic career, or if you want to start working for that company you have always dreamed of, remember that your school prepared you well,” Hernandez said. “Don’t be afraid of conquering the world like you are supposed to. You never know if you might ever inspire someone to do something important one day…. I am proud of each and every one of you who fought for a dream. No matter how small it was, it was a dream, and only fighters and hard-working people are the ones who get to accomplish them.”
The 2023 guest speaker for both ceremonies was Erika Kellen of Edina Realty and a Ridgewater College Foundation board member. Kellen, who holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and a master’s degree in higher education, spent 17 years in post-secondary education at St. Cloud State University and Ridgewater College. Her second career is as a licensed Realtor in Hutchinson, but she maintains her passion for education and helping students by serving on the Ridgewater Foundation board.
“Crown yourself with confidence that you have received an excellent education and are prepared for tomorrow’s new chapter,” Kellen said. “It is okay to stumble, fall, fly and soar.” She encouraged graduates to become persistent, critical-thinking problem solvers. “No one but you can move yourself in the path of success.”
Kellen’s strongest message, however, was one of encouraging graduates and all attendees to find gratitude in life. “If you focus on gratitude, the good will come…. Wake up every morning and make sure your first thoughts focus on something that you’re grateful for and meditate on that thought. When you repeat this habit, you will begin your day with a positive vibe that will reverberate throughout your day.”
Among 2022-23 Ridgewater graduates were 442 from the Willmar campus, 271 from the Hutchinson campus, and 118 online students from all over.