Western Dakota Tech celebrates its 2019 graduates

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) -- Saturday was big day for hundreds of people as Western Dakota Tech held its 2019 graduation ceremony.

Dr. Nancy Babbitt addresses the 2019 Western Dakota Tech graduates.

In 1968 there were only 19 graduates. In 2019 they -- and their families and friends -- took up much of the Barnett Arena at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. Western Dakota tech has come a lone way in 51 years. Just ask Dr. Nancy Babbitt who gave the commencement address.

"I think Western Dakota Tech is important for Rapid City because it fulfills a need for all of those students who are graduating from high school that don't necessarily think that their next step in life is a four year university," she said. "They know what career they want and they know that they can go to Western Dakota Tech and be able to work in their chosen career much faster."

A brief survey of the graduates revealed the varied ways the institution serves the community. From young folks eager to start a career:

"It's a huge day," said Benjamin William Atkins who studied Transportation Technology. "Finally got my certificate, my diploma anyways, and i'm going to go use it now. Going to go work in the world."

To the working mom who needs flexibility:

"I was able to do all my classes online so I didn't have to worry about not having any time with my daughter and still being able to work full time," said Samantha Swett as she held her daughter Iraylee in her arms.

To the non-traditional student finding a new path:

"I'm 40. I have a wife and kids. I kind of didn't have a direction of where I wanted to go," said Joshua Williams. "Now here I am with a clear direction of where I want to go, a clear idea how to get there. It's a good thing and it feels good."

But, on days like there, let's not forget the folks who are often just off stage.

"Thanks, Mom and Dad," said Swett.