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Northwestern College Conducts 111th Commencement – State Rep. John Anthony Gives Keynote.

Illinois State Representative John Anthony (75th Dist.) presented the Keynote Address at Northwestern College's 111th Commencement Ceremony at the Arie Crown Theater in Chicago.

Illinois State Representative John Anthony (75th Dist.) presented the Keynote Address at Northwestern College’s 111th Commencement Ceremony at the Arie Crown Theater in Chicago.

Northwestern College President Lawrence Schumacher announced that 271 students were awarded certificates and degrees at the College’s 111th Commencement Ceremony held on Friday, June 19 at the Arie Crown Theater at McCormick Place in Chicago. Graduates completed their studies at the College’s two Illinois campuses, including Oak Lawn and Chicago-Jefferson Park, as well as on-line.

The largest group of graduates stemmed from the College’s School of Health Sciences, including the Programs of Health Information Technology, Massage Therapy, Coding, Medical Assisting and Radiologic Technology. The bulk of the remaining graduates were from the Schools of Commerce and Technology as well as Legal Studies. These Schools yielded graduates from the Programs of Business Administration, Executive Accounting, and Human Resources Management (Commerce) and Criminal Justice and Paralegal (Legal Studies). Finally, the College saw its fourth class of Nursing students graduate in 2015.

Northwestern College was honored to feature Illinois State Representative John Anthony of the 75th District as its Keynote Speaker. Rep. Anthony is also a law enforcement professional, having spent years with the Champaign Police Department as a police officer as well as with the Kendall County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy. While he is currently a resident of Plainfield, he was born in Chicago where he lived till he was 23 years old.

Rep. Anthony acknowledged that life was not easy, and that each of us have faced challenges along the way, including the challenges the graduates faced to complete their degrees. While moving forward in life, though, he urged them to make choices, to expand their horizons, and to make mistakes. “While it is inevitable that we will make choices that set us back, he explained, “The true test of character is how you turn those moments into valuable learning experiences that make you a stronger person for having endured them. When life gives you a second chance after a bump in the road, make the most of it.”

Rep. Anthony also shared some of the more personal segments of his life after emphasizing to the graduates multiple times to never, ever give up. He revealed that he had grown up in the Chicago Cabrini Green Housing Project with a mother who was a drug addict, and a father whose touch he never knew. He was homeless for three years, living on the streets, just trying to survive. The obstacles he faced he described as emotional, physical, and exhausting, explaining how at times he knew that those obstacles could have swallowed him up if he had let them. He had already dropped out of high school.

“I could’ve become just another statistic in the tragic history of urban youth, trapped in the endless cycle of poverty, drugs and despair,” Rep. Anthony admitted. Yet despite all the adversities he had endured, he attributed his indestructible sense of self-worth as the reason he didn’t give up, despite the odds, for he believed that someday, he could make a difference in the world. Proudly, he shared that he went back to high school, graduated from college and became a police officer. His life moved from one extreme to another. “All in all, my journey from a troubled youth in Chicago to the halls of the state capitol has been a fulfilling one,” he told the graduates. “Lots of ups and downs for sure, but always guided by an unshakeable faith.”

Rep. Anthony took a few minutes to acknowledge the economic and workforce hardships that Illinois has faced over the past several years, with families struggling to put food on their tables. “You will be the generation that rescues Illinois, and our nation, from economic uncertainty and inject new life to the American Dream,” he told the graduates, urging them not to take their talents elsewhere and leave Illinois because of a lack of opportunity. “We need to keep our hometown talent here in the Land of Lincoln to lead this renewal – a social and economic renewal that will bring out the very best in our state and our people. This renewal cannot be achieved by politicians and policymakers in Springfield,” he told them. “Our efforts in the Legislature can only be successful if they are embraced, challenged and given life by the actions of men and women from all walks of life.”

So what did all of this mean to the Class of 2015, he asked. “It means that when you think you dream big enough, think bigger, reach higher; don’t reach for the stars, reach beyond the stars, and don’t forget to stop and enjoy the small victories along the way. Enjoy the journey toward achieving your goals, not just the goals themselves, for life is too short not to.”

Northwestern College President Lawrence Schumacher also addressed the Class of 2015, pointing out to the graduates that gone are the days of working for one company for thirty years and retiring. He explained that they would have to continue to re-invent themselves, changing as both society and technology kept changing. He further noted that success does not come easy; many of them had faced enormous obstacles to get where they are today, but because they had worked through those obstacles and stayed the course, holding fast to their dreams, they were now college graduates. 
“There is no right or wrong path,” President Schumacher told the graduates. “So continue to follow your hearts, re-inventing yourselves as you seek new horizons, new challenges.”