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MSCTC celebrates graduation

In today's job market, a formal degree means everything.

And sacrificing to achieve an education was a central theme common with the speakers during commencement ceremonies for the Minnesota State Community and Technical College held at Detroit Lakes High School on Friday.

"When I was working two jobs, making minimum wage," said Karmeen James, graduating with an associate's degree in accounting. "I was thinking of how to better my family and about making my children's lives better."

One of 11 students to graduate as a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society and 44 on the President's List, James, a single mother of five children under the age of 10, had to make do without much outside support in her quest for a degree.

Melissa Coyne, a 2003 graduate in Radiologic Technology, echoed those remarks, as she is a single mother of two who needed to make a change. Coyne worked first to receive her GED and then get through two years worth of school before moving on to a career at St. Mary's Innovis Health.

"I took common-life struggles and turned them into a success story," Coyne said.

For Coyne, getting an education seemed to be a natural extension of her own personality, she just didn't realize it back then.

"The change in my life came when I realized I had a great work ethic and drive to succeed," she said.

As for James, she said that she hopefully laid the groundwork for her children to know how important an education is. "You're young and you may not understand the past four years, but mom has a degree," James said.

A change in mindset about what the future holds is also important to James. She wanted to do something where she didn't just have to show up just for the money.

"I've had jobs where I had a decent income, but they were just jobs," James said.

Looking at the various degrees awarded, ranging from degrees in the health care industry, to computers, and working in automotive repair, the graduates will be able to do something that matters. Plus they can be happy with what they do.

"If we do not have happiness, where would we be?" James said.