About halfway through the Sheridan College graduation, commencement ensemble members performed “The Long and Winding Road.”
The song originally written by the Beatles could serve as an apt metaphor for many of the graduates. More than 800 people received certificates or degrees Saturday afternoon at Sheridan College’s 70th commencement.
Most likely, few of them took straightforward paths to the stage inside the Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome. Cheyenne Turman and Victoria Waterhouse are two such students.
Turman graduated with an Associate of Applied Science degree in culinary arts. Growing up in Casper, she always loved baking and cooking so decided to pursue that line of study.
There were a few times when Turman didn’t know if she would graduate, particularly during the 2018 fall semester. Feeling overworked and losing motivation — Turman was double majoring at the time, taking 22 credits and holding down two part-time jobs — she considered dropping out. However, she instead focused on culinary arts and made it to the finish line.
Turman plans to move to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in the near future and work at a restaurant or bakery. She eventually wants to run her own bake shop.
Turman is the first person in her immediate family to graduate college, something she called a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. Despite the achievement, she said graduation doesn’t quite feel real.
“It’s astonishing,” Turman said. “… It’s like my mind’s not catching up to the point that, you know, ‘You are graduating.’”
Waterhouse walked across the stage with an Associate of Arts degree in theater.
She moved to Wyoming from Miami four years ago and graduated from Big Horn High School.
Waterhouse enjoys acting because it combines understanding a character’s motivations, writing and performing in front of a live audience.
“The first time people applauded, it was like, ‘Whoa, this is it,’” Waterhouse said.
Waterhouse also had second guesses if she made the right choice, especially when she had to sing onstage. However, Waterhouse generally relished her two years and aims to eventually study theater at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Waterhouse enjoyed meeting new people and said theater has helped her learn about herself.
“It’s been more of a positive, because I was expecting a lot of being alone,” Waterhouse said. “… The work has been hard but it never feels like, ‘I’m just going to go down the drain.’ There’s always another opportunity.”
Bill Sutley also discussed opportunities when he received the distinguished alumnus award Saturday.
He is the executive director of the Ranch for Kids and discussed the importance of mentors in guiding people through life.
“Show me your mentor and I’ll show you your future,” Sutley said.
He mentioned three words that help define success for him: discover, develop and donate. Sutley said people should figure out their life purpose and passion, grow their potential and help others do the same.
Susan Roberts Thomas shared similar ideas when she gave the commencement address Saturday. An educator and philanthropist born in Sheridan, she discussed her late husband Craig Thomas, who spent 18 years as a Wyoming senator and representative in Congress.
Thomas also shared some of her experiences as a teacher near Washington, D.C., and talked about the importance of choices.
“Inside each of us, there is hope, there is love and there are choices,” Roberts said.
Northern Wyoming Community College District President Paul Young chose to accept his current position in 2008. Young shared a few valedictory words during his final graduation ceremony. He will retire at the end of next month after 11 years as NWCCD president and thanked students and employees for their diligent work over that timespan.
“I bid you farewell,” Young said to a standing ovation. “… I will always remember my time here in Sheridan as among the best years of my life. It has been the greatest honor and achievement of my life to work with you, and I will always remember you.”
Going forward, both Young and Roberts urged graduates to make tangible contributions to their communities.
“It’s your turn to step up,” Thomas said. “We need you. We need your enthusiasm, your energy, your intellect, your passion and your joy. Choose to be involved in something larger than yourself. The world awaits your skills (and) your determination … Believe in who you are. Believe in this country and make the choice to make it better. If not you, who?”
As graduates like Turman and Waterhouse took the next step in their lives, they were reminded to take advantage of opportunities wherever their roads may lead.
Record number of high school students receive degrees at Sheridan College
SHERIDAN — Five high school students received associate degrees from the Northern Wyoming Community College District Saturday, a record number.
In recent years, the district, which includes Sheridan College, Gillette College and an outreach campus in Buffalo, has seen an uptick in the number of high school students taking advantage of dual and concurrent courses to try to reach this goal.
Tongue River High School student Morgan Warren, Buffalo High School student Marc Wodahl, Big Horn High School student Ellie Bard and Sheridan High School student Deana Sadrieva all graduated from Sheridan College Saturday. Warren, Wodahl and Sadrieva are also the first students at their respective high schools to achieve this goal.
Terese Kuhbacher, a Campbell County High School student, finished her associate degree from Gillette College in December 2018 and also participated in the Gillette College Commencement Ceremony Friday.
This academic year, NWCCD offered 128 different concurrent course options, which are courses taught at high schools by a college-certified teacher. High school students can also dual enroll in any college course as long as they meet the prerequisites, as well as earn credits through Advanced Placement courses.
“These students are combining dual enrollment credits, concurrent enrollment credits and even some Advanced Placement credits to achieve this goal,” said Cody Ball, director of dual credit programs for NWCCD. “It takes a lot of hard work and careful planning.”
At the start of the fall 2018 semester, there were 1,276 dual or concurrent students enrolled at Sheridan College, Gillette College and Sheridan College in Johnson County in Buffalo. Because these credits are offered at no cost to the student upon successful completion, Ball estimates that this represents an average of about $600 to $1,800 per year in college savings for these students and their families.
“Getting a head start on college credits allows students to avoid accumulating a lot of debt, especially if they eventually plan to pursue graduate and post-graduate degrees,” Ball said. “These partnerships ensure that students can complete college credits at no cost to them, so whether they earn an entire degree or a few credits, it’s a smart move to take advantage of these opportunities.”
Aside from saving money, the high percentage of high school students who graduate with at least one college credit reflects a positive partnership between NWCCD and the school districts within its service area. Officials added that it also points to a strong commitment to student success at both the secondary and post-secondary level in Sheridan, Campbell and Johnson counties.
“All of these students, whether they earned an entire degree or just a few credits, will enter college better equipped to be successful,” Ball said. “We are proud of their accomplishments and look forward to celebrating at commencement.”