Blackhawk Technical College graduates 421
BELOIT—It was a sunny day in more ways than one for Blackhawk Technical College's Class of 2014 as they received their diplomas Saturday. Here's a peek behind the smiles of a few of them:
Africa represented: Sheriff Faye is an aptly named graduate of the criminal justice program.
The native of Gambia said he came here to make his own way, which he said is much more motivating than living a comfortable life at home.
Faye plans to attend UW-Milwaukee this fall, where he will major in global studies. He hopes to get an internship with the United Nations.
Faye's sister Adama also graduated in criminal justice and was named Student of the Year. She gave the student address but had to stop for about 10 seconds to compose herself when she got to the part where she mentioned that her parents could not be there to see her graduate.
Student Services Vice President Ed Robinson quickly got up to offer support, and Adama continued but had to stop once more before completing her speech.
Returning student: Jeff Denio of Janesville lost his job with Lear Corp. when the General Motors supplier laid off workers in 2008. He got a degree in diesel mechanics at a time when Blackhawk was flooded with laid-off auto-industry workers.
Denio took a job in Missouri, but his wife got homesick he said, and they returned to Janesville. Denio decided to get a degree in auto mechanics, which he has done, with a 4.0 grade-point-average.
Like many grads interviewed, Denio already has a job. He has been working as a service technician 30 hours a week for Finley-Dencker Buick GMC in Beloit. He goes full-time Monday.
'G' is for … Nursing graduate Stephanie Peterson of Janesville had two G's in glittery lettering on her mortarboard, one for each of her children, Gwen and Genevieve.
“They sacrificed a lot (of time without their mom) over the past year, so I wanted to put that on there so they could see me during the program,” Peterson said.
Breaking good: Derrick Hintzman of Milton said he had a troubled past, including a year in prison.
“That helped me straighten out my life and turn things around,” he said of his time behind bars.
Hintzman said he got tired of dead-end jobs and temp agencies.
“I couldn't afford to take care of my kids at $9 an hour,” he said.
So he went back to school, starting in industrial technology, but he discovered he loved welding.
“I wouldn't have been able to do it without the school and my family,” he said.
Hintzman praised welding instructor Dan Crifase, who found out Hintzman wanted to be a certified welding inspector and connected him with Crifase's father-in-law, who is in that field.
Hintzman is already working, at Zalk Josephs Fabircators in Stoughton.
Proud mom: Sherry Muth of Janesville was told to go to the overflow room at The Dream Center, but she insisted she be allowed in to the auditorium, which seats about 1,300.
“I put my foot down. He's my only son,” she said after the ceremony as she beamed at welding grad Trevor Muth.
Vacant seats were available because some graduates chose not to walk Saturday, so Muth was given one of those seats, which by chance was a few seats away from Trevor.
Shout-outs: Reactions from the crowd as the graduates' names were called ranged from sweet to obnoxious, depending on one's opinion of such things.
One audience member brought a compressed-air horn, which he tooted each time a loved one was mentioned. Another man shouted grads' names with a booming, nerve-jangling baritone.
A quiet “I love you” was heard from a woman in the crowd. The man whose name was called blew a kiss back.
No college debt: Ashley Festi of Beloit was one of several criminal justice graduates who are leaving college with no debt.
“The money is there. You just have to apply for it—and have the grades,” said Festi, adding that keeping those grades to keep the scholarships meant hard work.
Dark profession: Kayla Nelson of Evansville was one of four graduates in sonography. They all sported mortarboards with the words “We do it in the dark,” because sonography requires darkness, she said.