‘I made it’: WALC graduates celebrate with family, teachers

A student in a cap and gown smiles at graduation

Ashley Serna Ramirez smiles after ringing the gong at the Winona Area Learning Center graduation ceremony on Wednesday.

Pomp, circumstance and community. 

The Winona Area Learning Center celebrated the graduating Class of 2022 at an intimate, personal ceremony at the school Wednesday night. About a dozen students and their families attended the ceremony, which was attended by WALC staff, Winona Area Public Schools board members and other special guests. 

WALC Principal Jolene Danca welcomed those in attendance, and WAPS Superintendent Dr. Annette K. Freiheit and board member Jim Schul also spoke. 

Student in cap and gown speaks at graduation

Student speaker Jolissa Nelton

The student speaker was Jolissa Nelton, who recalled the nerves she felt on her first day at the WALC. Those nerves were soon replaced by a sense of belonging. 

“Thank you to my teachers for bringing back my spark of enjoying my education again,” Nelton said. “Thank you to my former classmates for making memories inside and out of these four walls. To my family, who watched me struggle the most for the longest time, thank you for sticking with me and pushing me to become the person I am today. Mom, dad … I made it.”

Representatives from Minnesota State College Southeast were also on hand to award the Papenfuss Scholarships for this graduating class. The Papenfuss Scholarship, created by Jerry & Pat Papenfuss, covers all tuition and fees for MSC Southeast after other state and federal grants, and/or additional scholarships, have been applied. 

The recipients included Dante Jones, Mijuanna Mapp, Zach Caldwell and Tia Pope. 

After receiving their diploma from Danca, students participated in the WALC tradition of “ringing the gong” to celebrate their graduation, then proceeded to share hugs and smiles with school teachers and staff. 

There are a total of 39 students who have graduated from the Winona Area Learning Center over the past calendar year. 
 

Photo from Winona Area Learning Center Graduation
Photo from Winona Area Learning Center Graduation
Photo from Winona Area Learning Center Graduation
Photo from Winona Area Learning Center Graduation
Photo from Winona Area Learning Center Graduation
Photo from Winona Area Learning Center Graduation
Photo from Winona Area Learning Center Graduation
Photo from Winona Area Learning Center Graduation
Photo from Winona Area Learning Center Graduation
Photo from Winona Area Learning Center Graduation
Photo from Winona Area Learning Center Graduation
Photo from Winona Area Learning Center Graduation
Photo from Winona Area Learning Center Graduation
Photo from Winona Area Learning Center Graduation
Photo from Winona Area Learning Center Graduation
Photo from Winona Area Learning Center Graduation
Photo from Winona Area Learning Center Graduation
Photo from Winona Area Learning Center Graduation
Photo from Winona Area Learning Center Graduation
Photo from Winona Area Learning Center Graduation
Photo from Winona Area Learning Center Graduation