Commencement speakers give NCTC grads hope

Former State Senator Roger Moe of Erskine, and representative on the Minnesota State Board of Trustees, was a guest speaker at the Northland Community and Technical College graduation in Thief River Falls Thursday, May 11. Moe said that this was a tangible reminder to the members of the board of trustees of everything they believe in. It is a reminder of the power of public education to change lives. Moe added that public education that is accessible, affordable and relevant has never been more important.
by David Hill
Nearly 260 students graduated from Northland Community and Technical College in Thief River Falls this year. Thursday, May 11, many of the students and their families attended commencement where messages included one from former Senator Roger Moe and current representative on the Minnesota State Board of Trustees.
Moe told the audience and students gathered for the event that their presence and achievement was a tangible reminder of what the Board of Trustees believes in. Moe spoke of the power of a public education to change lives, that their colleges were places of hope and opportunity, and that at no other time in history was access, affordability and relevance ever more important. But for this particular day, Moe told the graduates they were gathered in the gymnasium to honor their achievements “because we believe in you.”
NCTC President Dennis Bona noted that 50 years ago that the first class of Thief River Falls State Junior College, now Northland Community and Technical College, graduated. In honor of this special 50th anniversary, NCTC invited those students to attend this year’s graduation, and some were in attendance.
In addressing the current class, Bona told them to be very proud of what they achieved. He said it is a sign to employers that they can learn new skills, and have the tenacity to complete something not required of them to do, which he pointed out is the major difference between a high school education and a college education. He also reminded them, however, that while they did this for themselves, they didn’t do it without support, and the encouragement of their parents, spouses, friends and teachers. 
Bona encouraged the graduates to continue to build on what they’ve accomplished. “Make this a first step, not a last step.” And, he encouraged them to leverage the skills they’ve gained to grow.
Bona also told them to “be the change in the world you would like to see.” At a time in history when cold facts become subject to interpretation and influence, he encouraged them to do what is right and above all, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Two honorees, Kevin Evans, Student of the Year, and Houston Kirkeide, Alumnus of the Year, also spoke at the event. Evans, a graduate of Southlake High School in Groveland, Fla., spoke of his first experiences in northern Minnesota and the welcome he received. Evans said it has helped build his courage and confidence. Kirkeide talked about the path his education from Northland took him, and said small colleges can have a huge impact.
Complete stories of the honorees appeared in the May 10 edition of the Thief River Falls Times.