Older NTC graduates reflect on economy, need for lifelong education

May 20, 2013

From wausaudailyherald.com: “Older NTC graduates reflect on economy, need for lifelong education” — More than half of Saturday’s Northcentral Technical College graduates were age 25 or older, telling a compelling story of the impact of a ragged economy and the need for lifelong education.

About 430 students — out of a total of 754 who graduated from NTC this spring — participated in the college’s commencement ceremony in the field house of Wausau West High School. Of the total number of graduates, 55 percent were 25 years old or older. About 43 percent were ages 16 to 24, according to college statistics, with 2 percent unknown to the school. Almost 10 percent of the graduates were 50 and older.

One of those people was Susan Thiel of Elcho, who at age 54 received a medical coding degree from NTC’s Antigo campus. She returned to school after 35 years because she was downsized from a job in the manufacturing industry. It wasn’t easy for Thiel to get back in the academic swing of things; math was particularly difficult, she said, but she was happy Saturday morning.

Future job prospects were bright, she said, and in the long run, losing her job and struggling through school was “positive, very positive,” Thiel said. “I’m confident that I can do it.”

Saturday’s ceremony is not the endpoint for education, NTC President Lori Weyers told the graduates.

“Learning is a lifetime commitment,” she said.

And as technology, the world and “your interests change, you’ll find yourself seeking more education,” Weyers said.

Carolyn Xiong, 30, of Rothschild, wasn’t financially able to attend college after she graduated from high school in 2000. Instead, she went from job to job in fields such as fast food and customer service. It wasn’t until she was laid off from a collections and customer service position, and qualified for financial aid for displaced workers, that she was able to attend college.

She graduated with an associate degree in business management, and she already has made plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business or international business, through either the University of Wisconsin-Stout or Upper Iowa University.

Xiong was wearing a gold cord and yellow sash around her neck, the cord signifying that she earned a 3.5 or higher grade point average. The sash meant she was a member of Phi Theta Kappa, an international honor society for two-year colleges.

“I’ll be honest, I wasn’t that great of a student in high school,” Xiong said. “But here, I tried harder. I was 1,000 percent motivated.”

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