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May 17. 2013 8:53PM

NHTI graduates more than 550 students


NHTI graduates head into a large white tent for the start of the 63rd Commencement Exercise. NHTI, Concord's Community College, awarded associate degrees to more than 550 students Friday. The graduates head into a large white tent for the start of the 63rd Commence-ment Exercise. It was standing room only as a crowd estimated at more than 2,000 attended the graduation ceremony, many applauding as the graduates made their entrance. Pat Grossmith/ Union Leader (Pat Grossmith/Union Leader)

CONCORD — More than 550 students, many working full or part-time jobs and raising families, and some still learning English, were awarded their hard-earned associate degrees in fields ranging from information technology to nursing, in a graduation ceremony at New Hampshire Technical Institute on Friday.

NHTI President Lynn Kilchenstein, in her opening remarks, singled out the entire 21-member graduating class of the electronic engineering technology department for high praise. She said their senior projects included the ingenious: a fisherman's autopilot by Casey Hoeffer; home control automation system by Crystal Ruddock; longboard digital data logger by Marc Salas; and an automobile blind spot detector by Rudra Timsina.

She also praised Rachel Akimana, a native of Rwanda, who developed an electronic cane for the visually impaired for her senior EET project. Akimana, who speaks English, French and her native Kinyarwanda, maintained a 3.11 GPA while attending school and working as a certified medical translator for members of the African community in Manchester. She will be heading to Vermont for a job at IBM.

Aaron Johnson of Pembroke earned both an electronic technology certificate and an associate degree in electronic engineering technology in three-and-a-half years, while attending night school and working 60 hours a week at Graham Packaging in Bedford. He maintained a 3.95 GPA and received the Outstanding EET Senior Award.

Hannah Harmon of Concord, a visual arts major, took time out from her studies to give birth to her daughter Avery, a life change she documented in her arts capstone project. She was editor and this year's president of The Eye, the college's literary journal.

Tim Leavitt of Lisbon, who earned his degree in paramedic emergency medicine, had the distinction of logging 32,200 miles and 570 hours in his car, while spending $4,200 in gas, in his commute to classes and to clinical postings in Concord, Rochester and Nashua.

Also among the students graduating Friday was Shannon Marquis of Penacook, who earned her nursing degree while raising four children ages 3, 5, 6 and 8 and working as an LNA at Concord Hospital.

"Academically she was a standout, and clinically she was stellar," Kilchenstein said.

It was standing room only as about 2,500 people — graduates, their families and friends — packed a huge white tent while others filled chairs set up outside it for the ceremony.

The graduates were also addressed by Senate President Chad Johnson of Concord, the winner of the Institute Leadership Team Award, who earned his degree in information technology; Kathryn Schmelzer of Tilton, who earned her degree in early childhood education, received the President's Award for Outstanding Citizenship and was president of the college's chapter of Phi Beta Kappa; and Taylor Parent of Derry, a business administration major and incoming president of the Student Senate, who spoke on behalf of the Student Senate which received the Capital Award.

Dr. Ross Gittell, Chancellor, Community College Systems of New Hampshire, in very brief remarks said more than 2,000 students — including those in Concord Friday — will be receiving degrees from the state's seven community colleges this year.

"When you come to that fork in the road, take it," he said, quoting Yogi Berra. "Don't be afraid to take on new challenges."


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