Dream big. Persevere in your dreams. Make mistakes. Stay involved in your community. Be the new storytellers.
That was some of the advice keynote speaker Francie Roberts gave last week in her address to the 41 graduates of the 2015 class of Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College.
“My story is built on other stories. Your story may be, too,” Roberts, a University of Alaska Anchorage alumna, said.
Certificates and diplomas awarded included general education development diplomas, associate of arts and applied science degrees, bachelor of arts degrees, master’s degrees and certification as nursing aides and welders. They were part of a record number of graduates at the Kenai Peninsula College campuses in Soldotna and Homer: 163 associates degrees, 13 certificates, 12 GEDs and 11 bachelor’s or master’s degrees.
A Homer High School math teacher and mayor pro tempore on the Homer City Council, Roberts set up her talk as how her story might inspire others. Twenty-five years ago as a single mother, she got her associate of arts degree at KBC and then went on to get a bachelor of arts in education.
“I feel a bit nervous. I took Beth Graber’s speech class,” she said, looking over at the KBC professor in the audience. “I hope I learned something.”
Sometimes to get a required class, Roberts told of how she and other students would lobby KBC director Carol Swartz to offer the class if they could round up enough students.
“I see her nodding,” Roberts said of Swartz. “Oh, we promised to find a 10th student.”
Roberts said she had to juggle her job and parenting to keep learning.
“But I had a dream. Follow your dream to your story,” she said. “Do not always choose the easy road.”
That road might have potholes and bumps, and people might goof up. That’s OK, Roberts said.
“Mistakes are some of the greatest learning experiences in your life. In that light, I hope you make many mistakes,” she said.
No matter what you do, keep at it, Roberts said.
“Persevere in your dreams,” she said. “The only limits that matter are the ones you put on yourself.”
Roberts said she found it hard to tell the story of her own life, but hoped that by telling her story, it might inspire others — and make stories of their own.
“I’ve told you my story. Now it is time to make yours,” she said.
Also speaking at the commencement was Michael Tupper, a graduate with an associate of arts degree, who gave the student address. In introducing him, psychology professor Brian Partridge said Tupper told him it was a little depressing that it took him 15 years to get a two-year degree. Tupper started college in 2000, and had been a medic in the U.S. Army and also raised a family and worked full time.
“I think this is inspiring. I firmly disagree this is depressing,” Partridge said. “Life happens, and it especially happens up here.”
Tupper said it could sometimes be hard studying on the weekends when his daughter wanted time with him. “Why do you have so much homework?” he said she would ask him.
But if was for his children that he went to school, Tupper said.
“I made it because I want my children to value education,” he said. “We are all here tonight because we value education.”
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.