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2,200 cheer on MTI grads

A crowd of about 2,200 assembles Friday at the Corn Palace for Mitchell Technical Institute's graduation ceremony. (Jordan Steffen/Daily Republic)1 / 2
From left, Kaitlyn Donahue, Shanda Dean and Shauna DeGeest pose for a photo Friday afternoon at the Corn Palace before the Mitchell Technical Institute graduation ceremony. (Jordan Steffen/Daily Republic)2 / 2

With applause, air horns and cheers of encouragement, an audience of 2,200 filled the Corn Palace on Friday and welcomed 434 Mitchell Technical Institute graduates to the world of work.

"In the last few years you have demonstrated a capacity to lead," MTI President Greg Von Wald said in brief introductory comments. Von Wald told his graduates that it's their choice to exercise that newly developed talent.

Keynote speaker W. Tom Simmons, senior vice president of public policy for Midcontinent Communications, invited the graduates to join him -- "an overweight, middle-aged Methodist" -- and others in the marketplace.

"We're in the business of taking care of customers. We expect you to join us and do the same thing."

Simmons challenged all grads to seize the opportunities that will come their way.

"When you land that first job, take advantage of everything they give you," he said, but he also urged grads to not only take, but to give back to the companies that will invest in them and to "do something to make your company stronger."

Simmons told the grads to be aware of the colleagues they will encounter in the workplace -- some ambitious and self-serving, and others who will be generous and who will work for the benefit of all.

"Work toward the goals of building teams and satisfying customers and you can't go wrong," Simmons said. "We're counting on you to carry us along."

Guest Colleen O'Neil, director of the state Division of Curriculum, Career and Technical Education, also addressed grads. She said they are now "part of a system that will build a stronger economic future for South Dakota."

She also noted that the skills they now have will typically earn them 65 percent more than a worker with only a high school diploma, skills that could translate to earnings of $1 million over a lifetime.

O'Neil advised graduates to set their expectations high, but also "to show up for work."


MTI also announced the recipients of the 14th annual Spirit of MTI awards. The awards recognize a student graduate from each program who best embodies the spirit of MTI and exemplifies his or her chosen occupation through study, hard work, reliability, contribution to their program, and future potential in their chosen field of employment. The faculty-selected award winners were:

Accounting/Business Management: Katherine McDole

Agricultural Technology: Andrew Price

Architectural Design and Building Construction: Brenna Sibson

Automation Controls/SCADA: Bruce DeJong Jr.

Administrative Office Specialist: Callie Beck

Culinary Academy of South Dakota: Hunter Baliman

Electrical Construction & Maintenance: Jay Kriz

Heating & Cooling Technology: Kevin Schurman

Information Systems Technology: Jonathan Kaufmann

Medical Assistant: Tanna Wenger

Medical Laboratory Technology: Allison Schmit

Medical Office Professional: Shauna DeGeest

Office Technology Specialist : Alexander Kayser

Online Office Technology Specialist: Leann Schrader

Power Line Construction & Maintenance: Steven Witte

Power Sports Technology: Bryan Petree

Precision Technology Specialist: Clinton Even

Propane & Natural Gas Technologies: Jamie Koopman

Radiation Therapy: Kristin Knott

Radiologic Technology: Sunni Busch

Satellite Communications: Kyle Tanke

Speech-Language Pathology Assistant: Amanda Sabers

Utilities Technology: Kyle MacIntosh

Telecommunications: Andrew London

Wind Turbine Technology: Frederick Leader Charge