SOMERS — The future of the country’s most vital industries from accounting to information technology, nursing and technical trades is the hands of those graduating from technical colleges, according to the president of a marine group who gave the keynote address before students graduating from Gateway Technical College Tuesday night.

“We need you — in all of the above,” said Tracy Crocker president of BRP Marine Group and senior vice president and general manager of Sturtevant-based Evinrude, which manufactures outboard boat motors.

“So whether you’re continuing your education, going back to a job with a new skill set or starting over in a new career path, each of you will be leaving Gateway with the training you need to better serve your neighbors, your community and ultimately the common good,” he said to a full house at the University of Wisconsin–Parkside Sports and Activity Center, 900 Wood Road.

This year, technical college officials saw 1,332 students apply for graduation, the highest number in recent memory. This year, 452 participated in this year’s ceremony, the largest number to attend since 2015.

Crocker had words of praise for the graduates and those who supported them. He encouraged them to acknowledge the people who helped to support them in their endeavors on the path to graduation. They include parents, spouses, siblings, mentors, teachers and friends who gave them direction and guidance.

“That feeling of gratitude, heartfelt gratitude needs to be acknowledged by you,” he said.

He said saying “thank you” to those who helped them is so important because it’s about being just.

“It’s a reminder that we are all here because we’re standing on someone else’s shoulders, benefiting from someone who came before us,” he said. “It puts you in a frame of mind that some day — that some day could be tomorrow — you will have the same opportunity to return the favor and pay it forward and make the world a better place.”

Star Ambassador

Graduating Keydi Osorio, of Kenosha, who earned a marketing degree and was the state’s youngest “Star Ambassador” for the college, gave the student response.

“Gateway gave us an education to be proud of and to be confident about, because I am proud to say that this college creates leaders for the future generation,” said Osorio, who came to Kenosha by way of Honduras. “We are leaders for future generations.”

Osorio said she was proud of all the graduates for the time and effort they put into earning their degrees.

“Gateway itself is a gateway to a sense of pride knowing we have this degree. A gateway to a better job and, most importantly, a gateway to a better life,” she said.

She said Gateway opened her mind to new opportunities when she doubted herself. When she was 17, she became the ambassador for the college, adding that her background helped her to become an example for those who did not have hope for education. Osorio is in the country through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and stays in the country legally, but does not qualify for financial aid or other assistance at Gateway. She encouraged her peers to learn from the hard times “endless nights of studying and self-doubt.”

“And use it as motivation to further your life,” she said. “Do not let fear stop you, because if you have come this far, the last thing on your mind should not be giving up. Instead, let today be the spark that is needed to ignite the fire within your heart to accomplish what they said you couldn’t. Because you can. Show them that, yes, you can.”

During the ceremony the Gateway Technical College Alumni Association honored Mary Kubicki with the “Distinguished Alumni Award” for 2019. Kubicki, who currently serves as Kenosha County clerk, earned a supervisory management degree from the technical college in 2012.

Also honored were the 18 students through three scholars programs including:

Global Scholars who represented the college in project-based learning opportunities in more than a dozen countries. They are: Virginia R. Aranda, Michelle Davis, Samantha L. Falstad, Holly A. Jacobson, Patrick J. Lenling, Bianca G. Maldonado, Emily J. Pena, Sheri A. Talaga and Linsey N. Weber

Green Scholars earned points having participated in sustainability activities on campus, in the community and their homes. The students are: Sharon L. Major, Adan M. Ortiz, Raelene J. Punzel and Rachel A. Ratkovec

Service Scholars engaged in civic and social responsibility with more than 50 hours of service learning locally or internationally. They are: Robert M. Ehrhart, Samantha Hazard, Jennifer A. Hundertmark, Holly A. Jacobson and Teresa A. Rasmussen