Diverse class graduates from Ivy Tech
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent May 10, 2014 7:58PM
A couple of excited IVY TECH students about to graduate, give each other a hug as they prepare to receive their diplomas as Surgery Techs, on 5/10/14, at the mass commencement at the Genesis Center in Gary, Indiana. | John Booz/ for the Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 12, 2014 6:20AM
GARY — Chester March of Gary was looking forward to walking down the aisle Saturday in his cap and gown to obtain his first college degree.
He was all smiles holding his hand high above his head, flashing a peace sign as he entered the Genesis Convention Center with his fellow classmates to participate in the 2014 commencement ceremony for Ivy Tech Community College.
The 71-year-old retiree was among the oldest students of about 1,500 to graduate from Ivy Tech’s northwest and north central Indiana campuses. About 20,000 received degrees from the college statewide.
“I was retired. I just didn’t want to sit home. I need to stay active,” March, a former telemarketer, said. He is receiving an associate of applied science degree in hospitality administration. March said he studied to be a culinary chef and a pastry chef.
“I want to work at a hospital cooking or baking,” he said.
Vincent Tolbert of Chicago, Jennifer Toomer of Wheatfield and Latoya Tracy of Gary were all graduating with their associate degrees from the School of Business. The three are all planning on pursuing bachelor’s degrees at four-year colleges and universities.
Tracy, who is married and works full-time, said she would not have been able to complete her degree without the support of her husband.
“I’m so excited,” she said.
Tolbert works part-time, which makes school easier to handle. Toomer, a full-time student, was following in her older sister’s footsteps, attending Ivy Tech before heading off to college.
“I’m looking forward to the next chapter,” Toomer said.
The four are representative of the diversity of the college’s student body. While some students attend fresh out of high school, others are returning to school to improve their employment opportunities or pursue the college education they always wanted.
Thomas Snyder, president of Ivy Tech Community College, recognized that diversity. During his opening remarks, Snyder took time to have students stand if they were the first in their family to graduate from college, if they were raising children while going to college or if they held jobs while attending. By the time he was done, about three-quarters of the graduates were on their feet.
He encouraged all of the graduates to remember they were not able to do so without the support of their family, friends, co-workers and teachers.
“Somebody helped you do this. It’s time to pay it forward. ... Tell your story. Be a coach. Wear Ivy Tech on your sleeve,” Snyder said.
Snyder was joined by distinguished alumnus Daniel Blevins and keynote speaker Mark T. Maassel, vice president of Indiana Energy Association, who offered words of encouragement to graduates.
“I’m telling you your dreams are only dead if you believe they’re dead,” Blevins said.
Maggie Oksimowicz, 9, of Valparaiso, clutched a bouquet of flowers as she walked with her father, Radek Oksimowicz, and grandfather, Mario Marianetti, to their seats before the ceremony began. The flowers were for her mother, Sheryl, who was graduating summa cum laude with an associate of applied science degree in accounting and a certificate in payroll.
“I’m really happy for her,” Maggie said.
Radek Oksimowicz said his wife decided to return to school now that her two oldest children have left the house. “It’s always been her passion to finish,” he said.
Marianetti, also of Valparaiso, was beaming with pride for his daughter.
“Out of my four children, she’s the one who graduated college,” he said.