Keweenaw Bay College Graduates First Class

Aug 15th, 2003 | By | Category: 15-1: Indigenizing Our Future, Tribal College News

“I’ve decided I’m not finished learning yet,” said Lauri Denomie (Ojibwa) in her valedictory speech for the first graduating class of Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College (Baraga, MI).

More than 100 people attended the tribal college’s first graduation ceremonies on April 26, 2003. Four students graduated: Denomie, Elizabeth Julio, Candice Kemppainen, and Mary Rajala.

Denomie began taking college classes 12 years ago. Since she worked full-time and was a wife and mother, sometimes she could only take a course a semester. “I am very thankful that this college has been available to me and others,” she said. “I’m going to keep on doing this because learning is a wonderful experience.”

Denomie, now 42, plans to attend a four year university about 30 miles from the reservation to continue her education while balancing her employment as deputy clerk for the tribal court and the family needs of her husband and son.

“I am very proud to be graduating with this first class — from our reservation’s very own community college. I hope to see this college grow as people of this community take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to gain knowledge offered in a way that our parents and grandparents never dreamed possible,” she said.

KBOCC also recognized Adrian Abbott, AIHEC Student of the Year; Rodger Hebert, writer of the year; Judith Smith, science achievement award; and Treniece Marshall, outstanding faculty member for 2002-2003. Timothy Shanahan of the KBOCC Board of Regents was emcee for the ceremony, which was followed by a feast. Originally chartered by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community July 12, 1975, the college offered its first college credit courses in 1998 and gained membership to AIHEC on October 21, 1999.

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