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Speakers Express Optimism with 2024 Northeast Graduating Classes

Speakers Express Optimism with 2024 Northeast Graduating Classes

NORFOLK, Neb. – Graduates of Northeast Community College were given advice Friday to live each day like that grand old philosopher – Winnie the Pooh.

The fictional teddy bear, who will turn 100 next year, was known for saying, “Today is my favorite day.” 

Lisa Guenther, the Northeast childhood instructor who provided commencement addresses Friday at 9 a.m. and noon, encouraged graduates to learn from Pooh Bear by staying positive, even when facing challenges. 

“Graduates, for all of us here celebrating you, and for you, today is our favorite day,” she said. 

Guenther said graduates should be grateful for all they have accomplished and to look to family, friends, veterans, and others who have made this day possible. 

“Positive attitudes and laughter are contagious. Negativity is also contagious. Which do you want to spread? What kind of a world do you want to live in? Be that positive change in the world,” Guenther said. “I want to live in the world with these graduates.” 

Leah Barrett, president, had her own message of optimism inspired by this year’s graduates. 

“In a world where we are inundated with information -- our students give us hope…they present well researched arguments, critical thoughts, new ideas, and exceptional skills that make them the best people for the job – as future business and ag leaders; as IT (Information Technology) and precision agriculture professionals; as future teachers, doctors, and accountants and so much more,” Barrett said. “Graduates – stay curious, keep learning, take a few risks, and always be proud of where you came from – your family, your region, Northeast.”  

This past year, Northeast provided learning opportunities to more than 13,500 learners, Barrett said. But she especially wanted to offer congratulations to the graduates on Friday. 

“Adversity will arise. Maybe it’s today, maybe it was yesterday. Maybe it’s in 20 years. Stay resilient... recognize the obstacles you have overcome to get here today. When the walls figuratively ... or literally come down on your dreams as we experienced yesterday in downtown Norfolk, dig deep, be creative, pivot, as necessary. See each challenge as an opportunity. You are ready for the next adventure. Your faculty have prepared you well. The staff have supported you on this journey.” 

The Class of 2024 was celebrated as the 51st in the college’s history. Nursing graduates received their nurse pins and participated in commencement at 3 p.m. in the day's final ceremony. Tom Wilson was the student speaker. He was a nontraditional student who decided later in life to become a nurse.

At 9 a.m., Applied Technology and Health and Public Services graduates participated in commencement followed by a ceremony featuring Business and Humanities and Science, Technology, Agriculture and Math (STAM) graduates at noon. 

Hunter Oestreich, Battle Creek, gave the student address at 9 a.m. and noon. Oestreich presented a theme of gratitude, thanking family, friends and Northeast staff for helping the graduates to reach their goals. 

“Let us also remember to take time to look around and appreciate what is right in front of us,” Oestreich said. “One of the main things I have learned here at Northeast is to not miss anything. And yes, I know, that advice doesn’t always make sense because we have all missed class, important meetings, or the breakfast hours at the Caff, but ‘Don’t Miss Anything’ isn’t just a thought to ignore. Let’s appreciate each moment. Don’t miss the conversation. Don’t miss the game. Don’t miss the moment.” 

Oestreich was awarded an associate of arts degree with a concentration in graphic design. He was a student athlete on the men’s basketball team, a Resident Assistant, and participant in the Student Leadership Development Series. After Northeast, he plans to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing. 

“Class of 2024, you sit here today with the world at your disposal,” he said. “Take your gifts and talents and your experiences at Northeast into the ends of the country roads, highways, towns, cities, and countries and make it everything you dreamed it to be.”    

Approximately 919 graduates, including those earning more than one degree, and those who completed their studies this past summer and fall, were listed in the commencement program.  

Alberto Cartela, a Northeast student working on his associate of arts degree with a concentration in art, sang the National Anthem. 

Jeff Scherer, chairperson of the Northeast Board of Governors, asked Northeast board members, administrators, faculty and staff to stand at one point during his address. 

“I am proud to say that Northeast Community College is a world-class rural community college that includes outstanding academic programs, state-of-the-art facilities, and dedicated employees,” Scherer said. 

All three ceremonies were broadcast live by members of the Northeast Community College Media Arts – Broadcasting, and Media Arts – Audio Recording Technology programs. Ceremonies may be viewed online at and click on demand. 

To read the list of candidates for graduation, click HERE


Commencement photo 1  

Northeast Community College celebrated its commencement on Friday with three ceremonies. Shown here (from left) are President Leah Barrett, Hunter Oestreich of Battle Creek, who gave the student address; Amanda Nipp, vice president of student services; and Lisa Guenther, who gave the faculty address. (Northeast Community College)