Sunday, May 14, 2006

JALC students graduate

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JALC students graduate

by jason lee, the southern

CARTERVILLE - A howl of a graduation ceremony took place Friday night at John A. Logan College as about 250 students, and one furry friend, received diplomas from the institution in Carterville.

Highlighting the ceremony was 27-year-old Kelly Stephenson, whose support dog, a black and white Great Dane named Emmie Sue, participated in the processional just as she had assisted Stephenson throughout her four years at John A. Logan.

Each day the dog carried textbooks on her back in a specially designed harness for Stephenson, who has degenerative disc disease and reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome.

Stephenson, of Lockport, received an associate's degree in tourism management and she plans to enroll at Southern Illinois University Carbondale in the fall.

"She always carries my books," Stephenson said of her pawed pal, who wore a small graduation cap. "Since I'm graduating today, she's graduating with me."

While Emmie Sue was "a little bit nervous from the music," Stephenson said the dog settled down and having her take part "was a lot of fun."

"This wouldn't have been possible without her," Stephenson said.

Meanwhile, families and friends packed the gymnasium for the college's 37th annual commencement ceremony. Some 971 students qualified to graduate this year.

John A. Logan College President Robert L. Mees, who presented the diplomas, praised the students for their commitment to learning and reminded them that "education is a lifetime process."

"I would like to congratulate you on a job well done," Mees said. "This is a significant step in your lives."

Honored with the college's distinguished alumnus award, Robert Perkins of Southlake, Texas, said his experience at John A. Logan "allowed me to gain academic and real world knowledge at the same time." Perkins oversees a hotel management company that includes 30 properties.

"My challenge to you is to remain committed to action," Perkins, a 1975 graduate, told the students. "I believe choice, not chance, determines your destiny."

Jennifer Blair of Makanda was honored as the ceremony's student speaker. Blair graduated with a perfect 5.0 grade-point average and received an associate's degree in arts and science.

"As graduates of John A. Logan, we have learned that there's a trailblazer in each one of us," Blair said to her fellow alumni. "Tonight is not an ending for any of us. It is a chance to begin again."

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Published on: Saturday, May 13, 2006 6:00 AM CDT

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