Gateway Grads Come in All Shapes and Sizes

May 17, 2023 7:50p

(WGTD)---At Gateway Technical College, there’s a growing number of what are called non-traditional students.

And 49-year-old Sondra McGrone of Racine counts herself as one of them. McGrone was among the Gateway students that picked up their diplomas at one of two commencement ceremonies that took place this week at UW-Parkside.

Talking to us before Wednesday's event, McGrone said she originally attended Gateway for accounting in her teens and early 20s but had to drop out when her first child was born.

Now that her children are older, McGrone returned to school. With her interests having changed, McGrone went for human services--she already works full-time at an agency. 

But McGrone isn't stopping with the associate degree from Gateway. She’s already enrolled in an online program to get her B-A, something she says will enable her to conduct group counseling.

Her main message to the public Wednesday night? "You're never too old to live your dreams. Go for it. Don't be scared. Don't care about opinions. You can do it. If you fall get up. If you fall get up again." 

This week’s commencement ceremonies honored about 13-hundred graduates who finished their studies either last summer or in the fall of 2022, or in the spring of this year.  

The 450 graduates who chose to participate in one of the ceremonies ranged from high-schoolers enrolled in Gateway’s dual credit program, to seniors who for one reason or another chose to return to school.

67-year-old Jo Blackman of Lake Geneva fits into the latter category. Because of a back injury, Blackman could no longer work as a nursing assistant. With her classes paid for, Blackman decided to build upon her long-ago UW-Whitewater B-A and obtain an associate degree from Gateway in early childhood education. "I really love teaching. I love the kids," she said, adding, "This has provided extra income that we need because everything is more expensive these days. I could retire but we would probably have to live on a budget. This way we'll be able to pay down some bills." 

Blackman works as a K-through-3 substitute teacher, and also is employed by a daycare.