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College convocation ceremony epitomizes resiliency of students

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Forty-four students graduated from Confederation College’s Rainy River District campus last Wednesday, including many who have overcome struggles.

“This [graduation] represents a significant crossroad for our students,” said college president Jim Madder.

He noted the graduating class at the local campus is unique in that a number of the students were part of the School Within A College (SWAC) program.

“They’ve had some bumps in life and managed to complete high school, and then come to our school and complete our program,” Madder remarked.

“And I think that shows their tenacity and that they care about who they are, their own future, and bettering themselves,” he stressed.

Brittany Ballan, who previously had graduated from the SWAC program, earned a diploma from the college’s pre-health program this year.

The 24-year-old single mom credited her two-year-old daughter, Brielle, as the inspiration for returning to school.

“I should have graduated in 2008 but then I dropped out,” she explained.

“Then I found out I was pregnant with [Brielle] in 2011 and I had her in 2012,” she added. “And while I was on maternity leave, I took that SWAC program.

“I didn’t want her to not go to school and think that it was okay because I didn’t,” Ballan reasoned.

Ballan admitted it was a challenge completing the pre-health program after her daughter was born.

She initially thought that by taking distance education and staying at home with her daughter, it would be easier to balance school and her personal life.

But it was a lot harder than she expected.

“She [Brielle] would always say, ‘Mommy, let’s do this, mommy, let’s do that, mommy, let’s play,’” Ballan noted.

“So I had to start sending her to day care a couple mornings a week so I could actually concentrate on school,” she recalled.

Ballan, who discovered she wants to pursue a career in nursing, will be continuing her studies into the summer, when she’ll take an anatomy course before entering the practical nursing program this fall.

“You want to be a good role model for your kid,” Ballan said.

“She’s the reason I’m here today . . . I don’t think I wouldn’t have gone back to school if it wasn’t for her.”

Last week’s convocation also happened to be the first webcasted ceremony from the local campus.

Madder said he thinks the idea of a webcast is great because it allows anyone to watch the ceremony.

“This gives people the chance to see what’s going on even if they aren’t here tonight,” he remarked.

“There are people within the college watching but also other places in the world, too.”

The local class joined more than 1,450 students from other Confederation College campuses who graduated this year.

Sara Gerber took home the most awards, including the academic award of excellence and the campus award of excellence.

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