BY MIKE FUHRMAN
Harrison Kendall and his fellow graduates at the Collaborative College for Technology and Leadership will not soon forget the importance that face masks and hand sanitizer have played in their teenage lives or being told countless times that their MacBook was on mute.
But, as Kendall recalled during what he called a “monumental” commencement ceremony Friday, the Class of 2021 also has pre-pandemic memories associated with running around playing Shakespeare, killer dodgeball games and dancing for hours during lock-ins.
Through all of those experiences, Kendall said, the class enjoyed “a sense of togetherness” from their first day on campus — when they wondered if they would ever make friends and why the cafeteria floor was carpeted — that will endure as they continue their academic journeys or enter the workforce.
“Never feel like you are alone,” he urged his classmates. “There’s always someone with a hand reaching out to help.”
There’s little reason to believe the 43 new grads will struggle academically. Ninety-five percent of them will have earned their associate’s degree from Mitchell Community College by the end of the summer.
All of the students earned at least 60 hours of college credit, Principal Terri Hutchens said, saving their families about $30,000 in college tuition along the way. Collectively, the students have racked up more than $800,000 in college scholarships and financial aid.
Although CCTL early college program is designed to be completed in five years, nearly half of the students earned their high school diplomas and two-year college degrees ahead of schedule. Perhaps most impressively, Heather Rose Eng graduated magna cum laude in just 3 1/2 years.
As impressive as the students’ academic feats are, Hutchens said, this class of graduates will also be remembered for their exemplary character.
“You are kind, and you are wonderful people,” she said. “And I can’t wait to see what you do next.”