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Hats off to Ridgewater grads

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Graduates relax after the processional of the Ridgewater College, Willmar campus, spring commencement Friday evening at the Willmar Civic Center. About half of the graduates took part in the formal ceremony. (RAND MIDDLETON | TRIBUNE)2 / 3
Ridgewater College students take a selfie prior to Spring Commencement Friday evening at the Willmar Civic Center. (RAND MIDDLETON | TRIBUNE)3 / 3

WILLMAR — Ridgewater College’s two campuses graduated more than 680 students this spring.

The college’s students — 234 graduated Thursday on the Hutchinson campus and 451 graduated Friday on the Willmar campus — earned a combined total of 892 degrees and diplomas. The actual number of graduates could be higher, as some students do not allow the release of their information.

The Willmar students graduated Friday evening at the Willmar Civic Center arena. The student speaker was Nicole Bredeson, a 2016 graduate.

The commencement speaker in Willmar was Shane Johnson, CEO of Bremer Bank’s Southwest Minnesota Region.

Johnson earned his associate degree at Ridgewater in 1996. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree at Minnesota State University-Mankato.

He has worked with Bremer since 2001 and has served in several positions.

The Hutchinson commencement was Thursday evening at the McLeod County Fairgrounds Commercial Building.

Student speaker there was Mckenzie Ebert, a 2016 Ridgewater graduate.

Commencement speaker was Chad Harlander, Hutchinson High School REACH Director.

Harlander has spent more than 20 years working with youth and their families throughout Minnesota in the area of children’s mental health. The REACH Program, which stands for Relationships, Education, Accountability, Character, and Hard Work, started in the Hutchinson School District and has expanded into 18 schools across Minnesota.