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Graduates reflect on their success, prepare to begin their futures

Campus Life May 10, 2023
A grid of two rows, featuring four people in caps and gowns in each row
A grid of two rows, featuring four people in caps and gowns in each row

KOKOMO, Ind. — For P.J. Reehling, graduating from Indiana University Kokomo was a dream nearly a decade in the making.

“It means a lot to me,” he said. “I’m 28, and I came here when I first graduated from high school, so it’s been a long journey. It’s awesome to finally finish up here.”

Reehling, from Kempton, was among members of the Class of 2023 participating in Commencement ceremonies Wednesday (May 10), at the Pavilion. He was among those earning 653 degrees, including 16 associate degrees, 571 bachelor’s degrees, and 66 master’s degrees.

Reehling first enrolled as a secondary math education major, taking a few classes at a time, but stopped after a few years. His job prompted him to come back, this time to study elementary education.

“I worked at a Boys & Girls Club for about nine years. I’ve been working with elementary kids for most of my adult life, and I like it a lot more,” he said.

He’s excited to begin the next step in his journey.

“I’m ready to get a real job, and to move on with my life,” he said.

The most frequently awarded degree was the Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Gurinder Kaur Sembhi, from Noblesville, was among the 122 who earned that degree.

“It’s an exciting time to celebrate,” she said, noting that she was previously earned an Associate of Science in Nursing at Ivy Tech Community College.

“I wanted to continue my education, that’s something that means a lot to me,” Sembhi said. Her next step is enrolling in a Master of Science in Nursing program.

Stephen Markley, Syenna Powell, and Darian Porch were proud to be among the 34 percent of the class who are first-generation college students.

Markley, Kokomo, majored in biochemistry, and said participating in the Kokomo Experience and You (KEY) programs, such as touring Eli Lilly’s research facilities has prepared him for his future.

“For a first-generation college student, going to medical school is a pretty lofty goal,” he said. “Through my experience at IUK, I think I can do pretty well.”

Porch, who played on the IU Kokomo men’s basketball team, hopes to continue his basketball career or work in hospitality and tourism.

“I’m excited to see my peers today, and know that we made it all together,” the Indianapolis resident said.

Powell also plans to work in hospitality and tourism, and to pursue a graduate degree in public management.

“I’m excited to be done with my bachelor’s degree,” she said.

Like Powell, Jose Bojorquez-Batista said his undergraduate degree in criminal justice is a stepping stone toward another degree.

“This means a lot, because I want to go to law school, and this is the halfway mark,” said Bojorquez-Batista, from Portland, Oregon.

For Kaitline Martin, her biochemistry degree is also a step toward her next goal, as she plans to pursue medical school. Her campus experience, including research with Hisako Masuda, associate professor of biochemistry, has prepared her for what comes next.

“It definitely helped me learn more about science in general, and how to start from scratch and build your way,” she said. “It helped me connect with other people in my degree program.”

Erica Bolinger, from Auburn, said her criminal justice degree was what she needed for the next step in her career. She recently accepted a job as a case manager.

“I had one of the best college experiences I could get, because it was everything I wanted,” said Bolinger, who was on the women’s soccer team. “The campus was big enough to have that college feeling, but small enough that I had the experience I wanted to get out of it and built relationships with friends and faculty.”

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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