WINONA, Minn. (KTTC) – It’s graduation day for Winona State University students.
More than 1,000 students donned caps and gowns and received their diplomas. For many, it's a thrilling step toward a new chapter of life; for others, it's a bittersweet goodbye to old friends.
"Surreal, surreal, definitely hasn't sunk in yet," said one group of sorority sisters as they snapped pictures with family and friends. "Best Mother's Day ever!" said one excited mom, posing with her daughter outside of the Winona State gymnasium.
Both students and their excited families shed happy tears and sad. They reflected on the future and their past few years. Students had some advice for their freshman year selves. "Stay in the library," said Dominick Biebighauser, an English major. Alisha Schmit, a Criminal Justice major, says her advice is to "Cherish the time you have because it goes really fast." "Stay in the library, stay in the library. You think you can do your homework at home," said WSU football player Chichi Ojika.
An international administration and business administration major, Tasha Da Cunha said she almost gave up her freshman year, but learned a valuable lesson. "Just keep going and you'll eventually make it," she said.
Vivian Fusillo is retiring after 46 years of teaching theater. She found out at the ceremony, the school's auditorium will be named after her. "It's kind of strange," she said, "To think I'll be on all the programs from now on is amazing." Fusillo said she felt sick when she first learned the auditorium would sport her moniker. Under her robes, she sported a special frock, displaying the names of more than 100 plays she's directed.
Other friends will be separating, as they go back to their home countries. "I'm kind of sad and happy that we're done with school but we'll have all these memories we're going to miss," said Ravi Maharjan, a Management Information Systems major from Nepal. Neither he nor his friend, Da Cunha, from Sri Lanka, has been home in 4 years.
They say what they value most about Winona is having a second family. "We are grateful coming to Winona because it's a family here. It's a small community," Da Cunha said. A family forever bound by a shared alma mater; class of 2014. "Winona's taught me some good life lessons to use later on in my life," said Ojika.
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