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Apples

May 8, 2009

Last night CDKC held its graduation ceremony for the twenty-some students who earned their associates degrees this year.  Faculty members and staff were all pinned with corsages and proceeded into the basketball gym, where the ceremony was held, ahead of the graduates, who walked in pairs from the back of the gym to their seats in front of the stage. 

I wasn’t expecting to feel anything during the ceremony, but as I watched the students, at least a third of whom I came to know well during the year, my eyes warmed with the threat of tears.  An associates degree may not seem like a huge accomplishment, but for students living in a community where money is scarce, drug abuse high, and educated Indians are referred to as “apples” (red on the outside, white on the inside), it is a feat to be proud of.  I felt like a mom watching my children march on to the future, sad to see them go but thrilled to see them succeed; unlike a mom, however, I’m lucky in the sense that I will get a whole new batch of students next year, so my “empty nest” syndrome will soon be supplanted by the excitement of getting to know and motivate more students in June, when summer session begins.

I think in addition to having encountered my ideal environment here among Montana’s horse and cattle-specked buttes and plains, I’ve found my ideal job.  Teaching at a community college enables me to engage with numerous subjects and activities – multi-tasking being requisite in any rural area – keeping me on my toes while simulaneously fulfilling my need for meaningful interpersonal interaction.  CDKC definitely takes the community in “community college” seriously, and we all go the extra mile to support our students.  We even set up for every event and activity such as last night’s graduation and stay late afterwards to clean up since CDKC doesn’t have the money to contract for such services.  An hour after the graduates and their families went home last night, other staff members and I were still sweeping and mopping the gym floors to leave it spic and span for the next community event.

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