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Strong relationships, persistence keys to success for NTHI graduates

  • Students, faculty, friends and family lined each side as graduates walked in to a tent before the start of the 63rd graduation ceremony at NHTI held on Friday afternoon, May 17, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Students, faculty, friends and family lined each side as graduates walked in to a tent before the start of the 63rd graduation ceremony at NHTI held on Friday afternoon, May 17, 2013.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • NHTI held their 63rd graduation ceremony on Friday afternoon, May 17, 2013. According to NHTI, over 550 students made up the graduating class.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    NHTI held their 63rd graduation ceremony on Friday afternoon, May 17, 2013. According to NHTI, over 550 students made up the graduating class.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Rachel Akimana, from Rwanda, waits among fellow electrical engineering technology graduates for the start of the graduation ceremony at NHTI on Friday afternoon, May 17, 2013. According to NHTI, Akimana works as a certified medical translator for members of the African community in Manchester, speaking English, French, and her native Kinyarwanda.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Rachel Akimana, from Rwanda, waits among fellow electrical engineering technology graduates for the start of the graduation ceremony at NHTI on Friday afternoon, May 17, 2013. According to NHTI, Akimana works as a certified medical translator for members of the African community in Manchester, speaking English, French, and her native Kinyarwanda.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Shannon Marquis, of Penacook, is surrounded by her family and hugged by three of her four children, Gabe, 8, Madie, 6, and Lexi, 5, following the graduation ceremony at NHTI on Friday afternoon, May 17, 2013. Marquis graduated from the nursing program and was joined by her husband Tim, parents, Maureen and David Smith, mother-in-law Donna Marquis, and sister Briana Smith. Her youngest daughter, Abby, 3, sat on David's shoulders most of the afternoon.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Shannon Marquis, of Penacook, is surrounded by her family and hugged by three of her four children, Gabe, 8, Madie, 6, and Lexi, 5, following the graduation ceremony at NHTI on Friday afternoon, May 17, 2013. Marquis graduated from the nursing program and was joined by her husband Tim, parents, Maureen and David Smith, mother-in-law Donna Marquis, and sister Briana Smith. Her youngest daughter, Abby, 3, sat on David's shoulders most of the afternoon.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • NHTI held their 63rd graduation ceremony on Friday afternoon, May 17, 2013. According to NHTI, over 550 students made up the graduating class.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    NHTI held their 63rd graduation ceremony on Friday afternoon, May 17, 2013. According to NHTI, over 550 students made up the graduating class.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Students, faculty, friends and family lined each side as graduates walked in to a tent before the start of the 63rd graduation ceremony at NHTI held on Friday afternoon, May 17, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • NHTI held their 63rd graduation ceremony on Friday afternoon, May 17, 2013. According to NHTI, over 550 students made up the graduating class.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Rachel Akimana, from Rwanda, waits among fellow electrical engineering technology graduates for the start of the graduation ceremony at NHTI on Friday afternoon, May 17, 2013. According to NHTI, Akimana works as a certified medical translator for members of the African community in Manchester, speaking English, French, and her native Kinyarwanda.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Shannon Marquis, of Penacook, is surrounded by her family and hugged by three of her four children, Gabe, 8, Madie, 6, and Lexi, 5, following the graduation ceremony at NHTI on Friday afternoon, May 17, 2013. Marquis graduated from the nursing program and was joined by her husband Tim, parents, Maureen and David Smith, mother-in-law Donna Marquis, and sister Briana Smith. Her youngest daughter, Abby, 3, sat on David's shoulders most of the afternoon.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • NHTI held their 63rd graduation ceremony on Friday afternoon, May 17, 2013. According to NHTI, over 550 students made up the graduating class.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

On many evenings for the past two years, Shannon Marquis has sat at a dining room table covered in nursing books while her four children run around it. When school was in session, she spent about 20 hours a week at school or studying, then split the rest of her time between her job as a licensed nursing assistant at Concord Hospital, caring for her kids and helping her husband, Tim, with his construction business.

It’s been a busy two years. But as of yesterday, those textbooks are no more, as Marquis walked across the graduation stage at NHTI in Concord with a degree in nursing.

“My husband has been an absolute life saver; without his support I never could have made it through this program alive,” said Marquis, 34, of Penacook.

Marquis was one of a handful of students that college President Lynn Kilchenstein personally recognized during her speech to more than 550 graduates. As is customary at NHTI, there was no outside commencement speaker. Instead, three recognized student leaders deliver their own remarks. This year’s three speakers were Taylor Parent, who will lead the student senate next year; Chad Johnson, president of the student senate and winner of the Institute Leadership Trust Award; and Kathryn Schmelzer, winner of the President’s Award for Outstanding Citizenship. A common theme through all of the remarks, including Kilchenstein’s, was the students’ perseverance through challenges.

“Many of you worked full time, sometimes caring for families – fairly large families – and yet against great odds, you excelled,” Kilchenstein told the graduates.

Kilchenstein shared Marquis’s story along with the stories of several other students, ranging from Rwandan refugee Rachel Akimana, who graduated with a degree in electrical engineering technology, to Tim Leavitt, who commuted a total of more than 32,000 miles from his home in Lisbon to obtain a degree in paramedic emergency medicine, to Dennis Volpe, who got an internship with the state Department of Transportation. She highlighted students across many programs, including the visual arts students whose work is on display, the animation and programming students who designed nonviolent video games and students involved

in the Student American Dental Hygiene Association.

Many NHTI students, such as Marquis, pursued their degrees later in life. After Marquis’s son, who is now 8, was born, she knew she wanted to be a nurse. She’s been working at The Family Place in Concord Hospital for the past several years as a licensed nursing assistant. Now, with her degree, she’ll be a registered nurse.

It’s been a crazy two years for the family, but Marquis says she still finds time to sleep. Her husband, Tim Marquis, said she’s a source of inspiration for all of their children, ages 8, 6, 5 and 3. He wrote his wife a letter Thursday night telling her how proud he and the children are of her accomplishments.

“They all want to be nurses; their mom is their hero. And I said to her in the letter I wrote her that what better compliment could you have than your kids want to be you?” Tim said. “I can’t think of one. I’m just very proud of her; she did the family proud.”

Johnson, a student speaker, highlighted the importance of those familial and other relationships in each of the graduates’ successes. Johnson himself started at NHTI when he graduated high school in 2000, but he didn’t complete his education at that time. When he came back more than a decade later, he became a campus leader, serving as president of the student senate and speaking frequently to prospective students. The relationships he built along the way helped him get there, and he asked all of the students to look to their friends and mentors in the crowd during the ceremony to say “thank you.”

“I’m sure all of you out there have someone who has been there for you and helped you along the way, whether it’s an advisor or a professor or a family member or whoever,” he said. “It’s important that we let them know how much we appreciate them.”

Like Marquis, graduate Mark Long said he couldn’t have done it without his spouse. Long, 36 and a father of five, graduated with a degree in paramedic emergency medicine. When asked how he managed to spend about 40 hours a week on school, work full time and manage a family, he simply said, “her,” while pointing to his wife of nearly 14 years, Christine.

But not every student comes to NHTI later in life. In fact, Schmelzer, the final student speaker, enrolled right after graduating high school in 2010. She had initial plans to attend a pricey private school but changed her mind at the last minute and went to NHTI instead. It was the best decision she’s made so far, she told her peers.

And while each NHTI student has a different background or circumstance that brought them there, she told them they all now share something remarkable: They’re part of only a small percentage of people in the world with college degrees.

Schmelzer asked her fellow students to use that degree to make the world a better place and follow their passions. But rather than only focusing on the future, she told her peers to invest themselves in what is happening now. On that note, she gave NHTI’s Class of 2013 a final piece of advice:

“Instead of trying to work through now to get to later, what if we embraced now for what it is – it’s a blessing,” she told them. “We made it; we are here.”

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or
kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @kronayne.)

Shouldn't the title of the article be NHTI not NTHI???? -10 for spelling

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