“We did it!” exclaimed Darla Walter in celebration to her fellow Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) graduates. The mother of five, who juggled family life, studies and two jobs on her path to the stage at Meyer Middle School in River Falls Monday night, admitted that she felt some of the same misgivings as other students when she started her Administrative Professional program two years ago.
“However, we stand here tonight because our belief in ourselves was stronger than any negative thoughts that popped into our heads,” said Walter, of Ellsworth, who was selected as the student commencement speaker for the 41 graduates from the River Falls campus of CVTC.
“All of the graduating students here today had our own unique challenges that we faced along the way to accomplish our goals,” Walter said.
Still, what she faced was particularly daunting.
“My oldest son had just graduated from high school that spring and was also attending CVTC that semester,” Walter said, recalling her start in the fall 2010 term. “I still had four other children in elementary, middle and high school besides two jobs that I had to manage at the time.”
One of those jobs is office manager in her husband’s business, Walter’s Electric, Heating and Plumbing in Ellsworth.
Walter was in the second semester of her junior year, studying Computer Programming at UW-River Falls in 1994 when she took time off to raise her children and support her husband in his career and growing business. When the recession hit in 2008, Walter felt a need to improve her outside employment in order to support the family.
“CVTC became the key to unlocking the doors to my future. It wasn’t easy, and I couldn’t have done it without my family and instructors helping me along,” she said.
Today, Walter has two children at CVTC and also holds a job at River Falls Area Hospital.
“Education is a lifelong process, not something you do during one phase of your life. Opportunities that present themselves because of education can come along at any time of life,” said CVTC President Bruce Barker in introducing Walter.
Keynote speaker Rich Lloyd, a CVTC graduate now director of surgical services/surgical practice at Baldwin Area Medical Center, urged the graduates to be important parts of the communities they join.
“Remember, your community is my community. Your community is your family’s community. . . Your community is your neighbor’s community. Community pride runs deep and being a part of that pride can make a person feel great,” Lloyd said.
Faculty speaker Renee Christensen has deep roots at the River Falls campus, being the first to join the faculty when Nursing classes were offered there. She spoke to graduates she saw often in classes – 32 of Monday’s graduates completed the Nursing program.
“As faculty, it is very exciting to see you sitting here tonight with a smile on your face and a graduation hat on your head. We have watched you grow and mature into professionals, and that is very rewarding to us,” Christensen said.
She urged the students as they moved from students to professionals to seek employment that requires them to keep growing, that provides them with the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives, and that they really enjoy.
This class of CVTC graduates is the last to receive degrees during CVTC’s 100th anniversary year, which Barker pointed out in his remarks.
“Opportunity awaits you,” Barker said. “You have 100 years of proven education behind you. You are our Centennial class.”