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BTC celebrates spring graduates
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JANESVILLE — Blackhawk Technical College held two commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 18, celebrating more than 200 graduates at the Dream Center at Central Christian Church in Beloit.

“As a Blackhawk student, you learned new things. You acquired advanced skills. You made good friends. You persevered through challenges, and you worked hard to be here today. You did it!” said Dr. Karen Schmitt, Blackhawk’s Vice President of Academic Affairs.

The first ceremony, held at 9 a.m., recognized students graduating from programs within the college’s Business, Manufacturing, Technology and Transportation divisions. The second ceremony, held at 11:30 a.m., honored students from programs within the Health Sciences and Public Safety divisions.

Both events featured two speakers. Passion Tann, who was voted Student of the Year at this year’s Student Awards Ceremony, spoke about her choice to be brave when she started her journey at Blackhawk.

“If there is anything you get from my speech, it’s to make friends with uncertainty and continue being brave. Keep putting yourself in new situations and allow yourself the room to fail, make mistakes, to be unsure. And from that, you can learn and grow because that is what true courage is,” said Tann, who earned an associate degree in Business Management.

Tinika Kilgore, a nurse practitioner who is the recipient of Blackhawk’s Distinguished Alumni Award, shared how Blackhawk gave her the foundation to pursue her career goals as a nurse. She currently has a Master of Science in Nursing and works for UW Health.

“Completing my education through Blackhawk changed me as a person. I had grown so much, and that had a positive impact on my family. My success inspired other family members to further their education and obtain degrees at Blackhawk,” Kilgore said.

The event also included one Rock University High School student who earned her associate degree in Human Services through Blackhawk’s dual enrollment program. Camille Shepherd will graduate from high school in June.

“Your future now contributes to our vision for delivering innovative education that enriches our communities. And I am certain that the world is waiting for the unique contributions that only you can make,” Dr. Schmitt told graduates at the conclusion of each ceremony.

Blackhawk celebrates GED, HSED graduates

In a ceremony at Blackhawk Technical College’s Central Campus, 33 students graduated Tuesday evening with their Certificate of General Education Development (GED) or their High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED).

Among the graduates, two individuals shared their personal journeys, marked with significant challenges and triumphs.

“I always knew that I’d be back one day to give it my best go and try to get my GED,” said Demeon Davis, who said he plans to go on to become a police officer because he wants to help others.

Kohna Kalscheur, reflecting on her own experience, emphasized the importance of self-determination.

“Choose yourself first over anybody. Only you will be there for yourself at the end of a long night and first thing in the morning…it’s never too late to go back and finish what you started,” she said.

Blackhawk provides flexible and supportive options to complete the GED/HSED requirements. With flexible lab times and instructor-led classes at three locations, students have many options to prepare for the GED/HSED tests. Learn more at

Stateline Manufacturing Alliance hosts 3rd annual Manufacturing Signing Day

Seventeen students committed to careers in the manufacturing sector through employment and training opportunities with six employers on Tuesday, May 21, at Stateline Manufacturing Alliance’s 3rd Annual Manufacturing Signing Day.

Sponsored by JP Cullen, CCI and Blackhawk Technical College, the event honored the students chosen for various employment opportunities, including apprenticeships, internships and full-time positions.

Guest speaker John Cain, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Scot Forge, encouraged students to embrace challenging roles, as these are key to personal and professional growth, he said.

“This generation in the room today who we are celebrating is the generation that holds the future in their hands. And we couldn’t feel more confident,” Cain said.

Zea Becker, a registered apprentice at Frito-Lay, also spoke. Becker was one of the students who participated in the first SMA Manufacturing Signing Day in 2022.

“It’s not just about the work. For me, I’m the only woman in my maintenance department … to learn how to stand on my own two feet and not doubt myself and to look at my co-workers as ways to learn and grow as a person is so beneficial,” Becker said.

Each student signed a certificate and was given a hat by their new employer. Rob Hendrickson, SMA Co-Chair, Frito-Lay Technical Director and Blackhawk Technical College Board Member, and Kelly Crosby, SMA Co-Chair and Scot Forge HR Business Partner, emceed the event.

David Polk, Wisconsin’s Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards Director, also spoke at the event, applauding all of the Signing Day students for their commitment to manufacturing. He also shared some insight he gained from a book by Jeff Olson called “The Slight Edge.”

“The slight edge is based on the little things you do today,” Polk said. “You all are receiving a slight edge because you are starting your trek so, so very young, and you will have so much opportunity years from now because of what you are doing today.”

Also recognized on Tuesday were three students who are the recipients of the Blackhawk Technical College Foundation’s SMA Scholarship. Elizabeth Baron from Edgerton High School, Angel Escalera from Beloit Memorial High School, Jordan Peterson from Elkhorn High School, and Payton Salyer from Monroe High School each will receive $1,000 to use during the 2024-2025 academic year.

The Manufacturing Signing Day event is part of the Stateline Manufacturing Alliance’s strategy to match the skills and career interests of students with the growing need for a qualified workforce to drive economic growth in the local economy. Established in February 2021, the SMA is the result of regional manufacturers, economic/workforce development organizations, and K-12 education providers coming together to address common challenges and opportunities. 

Colleen Koerth, Blackhawk’s Workforce Development Manager, was also recognized by SMA during the event, receiving the inaugural SMA Partner of the Year Award.