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'So good to be back': Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College hosts first commencement in two years

A total of 123 graduates received their degrees during the college's first in-person commencement in two years.

Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College holds first in-person graduation ceremonies since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic
Ray “Skip” Sandman listens to speakers during graduation ceremonies at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College on Thursday, May 12, 2022, in Cloquet.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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CLOQUET — With over 300 people in attendance, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College held its first in-person commencement in two years in its gymnasium, on Thursday, May 12. 

This year's class had 123 graduates receiving degrees in everything from nursing to arts and law enforcement.

Stephanie Hammitt, college president, said she was delighted to have students back in-person for graduation.

"It feels so good to be back in this space cerebrating after two long years," she said.

Hammitt told the graduates that their paths may be different but are no less important.

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She added that each student has been an integral part of the college community for the past two years.

"Know that as you prepare to leave you have also enriched our lives," she said.

Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College holds first in-person graduation ceremonies since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic
President Stephanie Hammitt speaks during graduation ceremonies at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College on Thursday, May 12, 2022, in Cloquet.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

The commencement address was made by Dr. Thomas Peacock, an author and co-publisher and owner of Black Bears and Blueberries Publishing.

Peacock told the graduates he wanted to say a couple of words about fate, luck, divine intervention and filling out forms.

He said that filling out forms really means making a purposeful decision to do something.

Peacock shared his life story on how he grew up in the area, became a principal, didn't like being a principal and ultimately chose to become an author and start a nonprofit publishing business.

When he started writing he said his writing was rejected numerous times, but he never gave up.

"I felt like I had something important to say," he said. "Maybe I am foolish or have some tenacity."

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Peacock said life will bring everyone choices and those choices could define where you end up.

"Traveling through life and there are all these roads leading in random directions," he said.

Peacock concluded his address by saying regardless of how each graduate got to the college, whether it be from divine intervention or filling out a form, he hopes they continue to make their own decisions.

"The only thing we have control over is making purposeful decisions and filling out the forms," he said. "I hope you choose to live consciously."

Sarah Durfee, one of the student speakers, told a story about how when she was struggling in an anatomy class. She wanted to withdraw from nursing, but her adviser wouldn't sign her form as they new nursing was her dream.

"I would not be here graduating from the nursing program if I didn't get the encouragement to keep going," she said.

Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College holds first in-person graduation ceremonies since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic
Student speaker Sarah Durfee delivers an address during graduation ceremonies at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College on Thursday, May 12, 2022, in Cloquet.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

The 300 people in attendance cheered as each graduate walked across the stage and received their diploma.

Hammitt congratulated the graduates one final time before they exited the gym to be with their family and friends.

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Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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