Blackhawk Celebrates Spring Graduates at Two Commencement Ceremonies

May 20, 2024


Blackhawk Technical College held two commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 18, celebrating more than 200 graduates at the Dream Center at Central Christian Church in Beloit.

“As a Blackhawk student, you learned new things. You acquired advanced skills. You made good friends. You persevered through challenges, and you worked hard to be here today. You did it!” said Dr. Karen Schmitt, Blackhawk’s Vice President of Academic Affairs.

The first ceremony, held at 9 a.m., recognized students graduating from programs within the college’s Business, Manufacturing, Technology and Transportation divisions. The second ceremony, held at 11:30 a.m., honored students from programs within the Health Sciences and Public Safety divisions.

Both events featured two speakers. Passion Tann, who was voted Student of the Year at this year’s Student Awards Ceremony, spoke about her choice to be brave when she started her journey at Blackhawk.

“If there is anything you get from my speech, it’s to make friends with uncertainty and continue being brave. Keep putting yourself in new situations and allow yourself the room to fail, make mistakes, to be unsure. And from that you can learn and grow because that is what true courage is,” said Tann, who earned an associate degree in Business Management.

Tinika Kilgore, a nurse practitioner who is the recipient of Blackhawk’s Distinguished Alumni Award, shared how Blackhawk gave her the foundation to pursue her career goals as a nurse. She currently has her Master of Science in Nursing and works for UW Health.

“Completing my education through Blackhawk changed me as a person. I had grown so much, and that had a positive impact on my family. My success inspired other family members to further their education and obtain degrees at Blackhawk,” Kilgore said.

The event also included one Rock University High School student who earned her associate degree in Human Services through Blackhawk’s dual enrollment program. Camille Shepherd will graduate from high school in June.

“Your future now contributes to our vision for delivering innovative education that enriches our communities. And I am certain that the world is waiting for the unique contributions that only you can make,” Dr. Schmitt told graduates at the conclusion of each ceremony.

About the speakers

Passion Tann, Student of the Year

Passion Tann, who is graduated with an associate degree in Business Management, was named Student of the Year at this year’s Student Awards Ceremony on April 30.

Passion, who is a graduate of Beloit Memorial High School, has been an active member of Blackhawk’s Business Professionals of America chapter and the Student Government Association, serving as the parliamentarian. She also has served as the president of Blackhawk’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter and has been a student worker in Blackhawk’s CARE Center.

Passion is headed to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the fall to earn a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She hopes to eventually earn a master’s degree in either Psychology or Counseling, and to live abroad for at least a year.

Tinika Kilgore, Distinguished Alumni of the Year

Tinika Kilgore, a nurse practitioner for UW Health, is the recipient of Blackhawk’s Distinguished Alumni Award, which honors an outstanding Blackhawk graduate who has demonstrated the value of a technical college education through career accomplishments, community service, continued personal and educational growth, and support of the technical college system.

Following her graduation from Beloit Memorial High School, Tinika was working at a restaurant, with aspirations of making culinary arts her full-time career. But at the advice of a cousin, she opted to work at a nursing home and come to Blackhawk to become a certified nursing assistant. Tinika’s work ethic was quickly noticed, and she decided to get an associate degree in nursing from Blackhawk.

After graduation in 2004, Tinika started what would become a 20-year career at the Beloit Health System. In December 2022, she moved on to UW Health and is now considering a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. Cooking remains a passion for Tinika, and she hopes to one day become a personal chef.

For more Commencement coverage, visit


Previous Article Blackhawk Graduates 25 New Recruits From Law Enforcement Recruit Academy
Next Article Stateline Manufacturing Alliance Hosts 3rd Annual Manufacturing Signing Day
© 2024, Blackhawk Technical College. All rights reserved.