Spearfish, SD Graduation season is here - and it was a time of celebration for many students across South Dakota, Saturday.
Hundreds of Black Hills State University students walked the stage to receive their diplomas.
Jenna Mullendore, a graduate, said "It's been 4 years of a lot of hard work and a lot of ups and a lot of downs. But all of that kind of changes you and makes you into the person you're going to be."
A sea of black took over the gymnasium, as nearly 400 Yellow Jackets hit a milestone. After years of schooling, graduates are now ready to take on the world.
And they've grown - right along with the university they called home.
Black Hills FOX reporter Robert Grant said "Black Hills State started as a school for teachers - now more than 170 years later, people are graduating with all sorts of degrees."
Corinne Hansen, the director of university and community relations, said "We have an exceptional business program and a liberal arts college too. And that's why there's so many graduates that you see here today from all of the different areas."
But, not every graduate was a student, today - BHSU also recognized a South Dakota local with a big name to live up to.
Jodi Archambault Gillette came from the Pine Ridge Reservation - working her way up to special assistant to President Barack Obama.
Jodi Archamboult Gillette, who received an honorary doctorate, said "I hope that people contribute back to their communities and serve the public interests to make the country and world a better place to live."
Gillette advised the president on Native American affairs for 6 years - and received an honorary doctorate from the university for her public service.
And she came with some advice for our country's future generation.
Archamboult Gillette said "Work as hard as you can no matter what cards are dealt to you."
Hansen said "We always say, commencement is the best day of the year. It is for the graduates, it is for the faculty, it is for all of us here - to see these graduates earn their degrees and go on to work."
One of those graduates - Jenna Mullendore - earned her degree in exercise science. She's now on the hunt for a job in personal training.
And she also has a tip for next year's group.
Mullendore said "You've made it this far so definitely don't give up now. It's totally worth it. Just keep working hard. Keep your eyes on the prize and stay focused. You can do it."