Kari Lynn Hunt
Carmen Sizer of Ogallala, center
North Platte Community College held its spring commencement on Friday.
Kari Lynn Hunt was the student speaker at the ceremony.
NPCC Vice President Marcus Garstecki provided introductions and remarks, and presented the graduation candidates.
President Ryan Purdy of Mid-Plains Community College and Vice President of Instruction Dr. Jody Tomanek conferred the diplomas.
The NPCC select choir was on hand to provide music for the ceremony.
Also, Carmen Sizer of Ogallala celebrated her nursing pin during the Mid-Plains Community College Associate Degree Nursing pinning ceremony Friday at North Platte Community College.
Sizer was one of 22 graduates from the program this year. Other graduates are Lisa Shimmin of Gothenburg; Susan Maucher of Hayes Center; Rebecca Gray of Maywood; Melissa Ebert and Tina Messersmith of McCook; Rawnie Barnes of Mullen; Kaleia Alberts, Erica Bargell, Makayla Bell, Amber Berliner, Donna Bielicki, Trista Borg, Shawna Coen, Whitney Gayman, Karrie Hanna, Kaitlyn Jensen, Brandi Obermeier and Lisa Rosenof of North Platte; Stefanie Schrack of Ogallala; Kathryn Hays of Phillipsburg, Kan.; and Autumn Jerred of Springview.
Also, among the graduates was Senko Pecarevic of Santa Fe, Argentina, who earned a milestone in a lifelong journey.
Pecarevic found himself fascinated with the United States and the American culture at an early age.
Although his native language is Spanish, he began learning English when he was just eight years old. He dreamed of coming to the U.S. to learn, work, and experience all the country had to offer, but he had no idea how to make that happen. When a friend suggested that he pursue his education in America, he took the first step towards turning his dreams into reality.
“I decided to visit the ARICANA, an American-Argentine bi-national cultural center back in my home city, to at least know where to start,” he said.
After learning more about how the American education system works and researching some colleges, Pecarevic made the decision to move to the U.S. and attend Mid-Plains Community College.
“It was very affordable, the on-campus housing option was very convenient, the outstanding electrical program and the connections between the college and railroad completely convinced me,” he said. “My dream is someday to work for the railroad and this college seemed to offer the best option for that.”
And so the journey began.
“The real journey for us international students can start one or more years before coming to college in the U.S.,” he said. “The first part concerns miles and miles of paperwork, but I was resolved and, assisted on the Argentine side by my educational advisors Ruby Simms and Florencia Bellitieri and on the American side by MPCC advisor Sherry Mihel, I started the journey.”
That journey was sometimes frustrating, Pecarevic recalls, but he eventually got everything completed and was ready to take the final plunge.
“It was when I finally was given my visa, when my parents bid be farewell at the bus station, and my friend Carlos at the airport, that I said to myself ‘I am doing this!’ That was when the biggest part of this adventure began,” he said.
Pecarevic arrived in North Platte a few days before classes began, and with the help of Mihel, he was able to get familiar with the college and the city.
“I decided to go first with the General Education classes to get used to the language and the way American colleges work. I promised myself that I’d study hard and get top grades,” he said. “In my second semester, that hard work started to pay off when I was invited to join the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and I was awarded not one, but two huge scholarships from the college. I couldn't believe it. I felt like I was getting somewhere!”
Pecarevic continued to work hard as he progressed from his General Education classes into the college’s Electrical program under the instruction of Jake Elmshaeuser.
“My freshman year at the South Campus was academically enriching and my sophomore year at North Campus was very socially enriching,” he said. “With Mr. Elmshaeuser and my classmates, I learned what being a Nebraskan is all about. I grew a lot as a person. I became less introverted and more secure.”
As his love for America grew, Pecarevic’s desire to remain in the country grew with it.
“I did fall in love with this country and started to look for a way to stay,” he said. “I looked into ways to transfer to a four-year college, which required more credits than the ones I already earned. I decided then to take one more year at MPCC and complete an Associate of Arts degree.”
Pecarevic was quick to give credit to staff and faculty members with helping him find scholarships that would allow him to stay and continue his education at MPCC.
“I would never have made it this far without their help and I will never be able to thank them enough,” he said.
Following graduation, Pecarevic plans to relocate to New York State. Although he admits he isn’t quite sure what his next step will be, one thing he is sure of is that his decision to follow his dreams and come to the U.S. was the right one.
“Working hard is what got me to this point and I know it will take me anywhere. I am absolutely sure of that,” he said.
When asked his advice for his fellow graduates, Pecarevic was passionate in his reply:
“If I can make it, taking into consideration the fact that I basically uprooted myself from my country to come here, at 33 years old, not the optimal age for that, you totally can do it as well, and even better than I did! So go out there and tackle the world, because you all are winners!”