Sauk Valley Community College recognizes student achievers during commencement

SVCC also conducts pinning ceremonies for its nursing program

Honors graduate Blerina Mimini gives one of the student addresses during the Sauk Valley Community College commencement on Friday, May 13, 2023.

DIXON — A graduate from a family of immigrants and a high schooler who gained her associate degree with high honors were featured speakers on Friday during Sauk Valley Community College’s commencement.

SVCC held commencement ceremonies for its nursing program, and later, for its degree and certificate programs.

Blerina Mimini, who was involved in student government, said perseverance was the greatest lesson of her junior college experience.

Mimini is from a family of Albanian immigrants. She held up the freedom, opportunity and resources afforded her in gaining a business degree with honors.

Olivia Costner, a senior at Amboy High School, received her associate degree before her high school diploma. She will transfer to Western Illinois University and study accounting.

During the commencement, college President David Hellmich recognized faculty and staff members, including those involved in implementing its Impact Program that enables high schoolers to exchange community service hours for a tuition-free education.

The college also conferred an honorary degree to one of Impact’s biggest champions: former Rock Falls mayor Bill Wescott. Brian Duncan, vice chair of the board, made the presentation.

Lori Cortez, vice president of advancement, made two alumni award presentations. The distinguished alumnus award went to Roberto Carmona, president of Carmona Strategic Solutions, who spoke eloquently about how SVCC transformed himself from a student who squeaked through high school into someone who could achieve academically and professionally. The alumni achievement award went to Diana (Vasquez) Merdian, recently sworn in as mayor of Sterling.

During the pinning ceremony, the student speakers were Stacy Stewart of radiologic technology, Sterling Gwin who earned an associate degree in nursing and Amanda Yocum, who received a practical nursing license.

Both ceremonies concluded with the recessional music: “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang.

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Troy Taylor

Troy E. Taylor

Was named editor for and the Gazette and Telegraph in 2021. An Illinois native, he has been a reporter or editor in daily newspapers since 1989.