SOMERS — The University of Wisconsin-Parkside marked a record-setting commencement Saturday as 374 students were eligible for graduation, the most in winter graduation history for the school.
This record continues a trend the college has seen over the last six years by awarding more undergraduate and graduate degrees than during any other six-year period in the institution’s history.
“This tops last year by just a handful, but the last three winter commencements have been record-setting,” said John Mielke, director of strategic communication at UW-Parkside. “This continues a trend of strong graduation rates.”
Of the hundreds of graduates, four were recognized as outstanding graduates, two of whom were from Racine.
Kristin Crowe of Racine received the highest honor of the class, earning the Chancellor’s Award, which is given to the top senior in the class. The Horlick High School alumna never expected to win the award when she was nominated.
“I told my mom to forget that it ever happened,” Crowe said.
However, with a busy four years within the school as a communications major focusing on organizational communication and public relations paired with work she did volunteering at the Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization shelter and as a confirmation teacher, Crowe stood out of the crowd.
Post-graduation plans are still up in the air for Crowe, who is applying for jobs and considering graduate school; but she is ecstatic about the decision she made to attend Parkside.
“Parkside was great,” Crowe said. “People can get a lot of the experience just like I did.”
Holly Beard was the other Racine resident recognized as an outstanding student. Beard found her way to UW-Parkside after graduating from Case High School. She knew she wanted to pursue her passion for science, so she decided to go to the school, which both her parents attended.
Already overwhelmed as a biology major, Beard somehow found time to restart the Circle K club at the school, tutor in anatomy, mentor incoming freshmen and assist with research for two summers at the UW-Madison School of Public Health.
Now graduated, Beard is ready for a break.
“It’s been a very hectic three and a half years,” Beard said. “I have a semester off now while I wait to hear back from medical schools so it might be nice to finally have a life.”
For the event, Hector Colon served as commencement speaker. Colon, director of the Milwaukee County Department of Health & Human Services, spoke to the graduates about not only the adversity they will face, but also about being tough.
Colon grew up in South Milwaukee and was bullied for being Hispanic. To help fend off these bullies, Colon’s father signed Colon up for boxing. Colon would go on to be a national champion by age 11 and would end up winning seven national titles in seven different weight classes as an amateur.
When he did not make the Olympic boxing team in 1992, Colon turned to college and then eventually to his current position.
All of his success, in and out of the ring, he credits to the work ethic he built through boxing.
“Throughout my career, I have been bobbing and weaving and rolling with the punches and challenges that come my way,” Colon said. “I also don’t have a cup for those low blows, and man do those low blows hurt, but I am tough thanks to boxing.”
Colon told the graduates that they are taking the right steps for their future by getting an education, and though it won’t necessarily make things easy, it will make them tough enough to tackle what is ahead.
“Every one of you has overcome something to get to this place today,” Colon said. “Use what you have learned to do the right thing and to fight for your place in society.”