Message to Grads: See a Beautiful Future—Then Commit to It

“Congratulations, graduates. Wow! You did it. Bravo to all of you!”

That’s what Horst H. Schulze, chairman and CEO of the Capella Hotel Group, told the more than 6,700 members of the WGU graduating class of winter 2015, 570 of whom were in attendance at the Coronado Springs Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, on Saturday, February 7, 2015, to celebrate their achievements. (Many, many more were watching live online from around the world.)

(Be sure to keep scrolling to view video from the event.)

They came from as far away as Anchorage, Alaska, with thousands of family, friends, and supporters in tow, to celebrate their big achievement. They averaged 39 years old but ranged in age from 19 to 75. Some 39% of them represent the first generation in their families to have graduated college.

“We know the journey that you have been on to arrive at this point and the important milestone that it is in your life,” WGU President Bob Mendenhall told them. A journey so difficult—and so rewarding—that thousands were gathered just to celebrate with them.

But the celebration is just the beginning, and keynote speaker Schulze had a warning: Don’t rest on your laurels now.

“Tomorrow, or next week, or whenever you go back to your jobs, to your business, or wherever your life is, has anything changed? It better have. Because you have in your hand your diploma, proof that you can do it—and did it!”

Start new, Schulze said. And head into that new start with a dream, a vision for the future, a clear picture of where this accomplishment will take you. “Then commit yourself to what you see.”

In addition to President Mendenhall and Schulze, the graduates and their fans in the audience heard from four remarkable members of the graduating class:

  • Bryon Denton, who overcame an early childhood marked by physical limitations and barriers to learning to become a master’s-educated nurse, a single father of a special needs son, and an air-med nurse.
  • Cindy Krupinski, whose goals of earning her bachelor’s degree took 16 years to come to fruition after being dogged time and time again by tragedy and trial—and finally earning her triumph.
  • Dale Boolton, who tried time and time again to make college work for him but kept being derailed by life and a lack of confidence in himself, until WGU gave him the tools not just to earn a degree but to be truly engaged in learning—for the betterment of his own life as well as that of his family.
  • Lissete Rico, who dropped out of high school because of violence but refused to become a statistic—and who today, thanks to determination to fulfill her dreams, is a teacher with a master’s degree and the knowledge that she can do whatever she sets out to do.

Check out all their stories in the videos below. Congratulations, Night Owls!

Dale Boolton

Cindy Krupinski

Bryon Denton

Lissete Rico

Horst Schulze

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