MATC Graduates Urged to Display Courage, Confidence and Character

1,500 students receive associate degrees, technical diplomas, apprenticeship diplomas and adult high school diplomas at Spring Commencement

Mark Feldmann,

May 20, 2024

Spring 2024 Commencement Ana Simpson, CEO of Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast, Keynote Speaker
Spring 2024 Commencement
Danielle L. Krzeminski, Quality Engineering Technology graduate
Spring 2024 Commencement Cheron Copeland, Outstanding Associate Degree Graduate Award winner, student speaker.
MATC Spring 2024 Commencement Spring 2024 Commencement
Spring 2024 Commencement MATC President Dr. Vicki J. Martin
Spring 2024 Commencement MATC Spring 2024 Commencement

Always have big dreams. Take risks, trust in yourself. If you don’t bet on yourself, no one else will.

Ana Simpson CEO, Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast, MATC Spring 2024 Commencement Speaker

 At 17 years old, Ana Simpson had her life planned out: A full-ride scholarship to Marquette University, becoming a nurse, earning a master’s degree, “marrying the boy and having kids.”

Two years later, everything changed. She became pregnant at 19, and started a new life as a single mother. “I needed a new plan,” she said.

She took a job, lived with her parents and attended classes at Milwaukee Area Technical College’s West Allis Campus.

“That allowed me to rebuild my confidence and my academic prowess,” she said.

Today, Simpson is CEO of Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast, which serves more than 17,500 girl and adult members. She has nearly 30 years of experience in retail, business and corporate banking, insurance, and nonprofit management. 

On Sunday, May 19, Simpson served as the keynote speaker at MATC’s Spring Commencement, which was held at Fiserv Forum. She shared her story and urged 1,500 MATC graduates to exhibit the same courage, confidence and character that she learned at the college.

See photos from Spring Commencement

“Always have big dreams,” she told the graduates, college faculty, administrators, MATC District Board members, family and friends. “Take risks, trust in yourself. If you don’t bet on yourself, no one else will.

“You leave here with something no one can ever take away: an education. Know that you have earned it,” she added. “Always look to build your network, give back to your community and always try to make a difference”

Simpson, who has served on the boards of La Casa de Esperanza and La Familia de Arte, shared some of her speech in Spanish and lauded MATC’s initiative to become a Hispanic-Serving Institution.

At the ceremony, more than 1,500 students received their associate degrees, technical diplomas, apprenticeship diplomas and adult high school diplomas. In addition, 25 candidates for graduation who have served in the U.S. military received red, white and blue cords from the college. 

With her graduation cap overflowing with flowers, Outstanding Diploma graduate Gabrielle Armon-Wickers opened the ceremony by calling MATC faculty, administrators, district board members and distinguished guests to the stage.

The commencement was the final one for MATC President Dr. Vicki J. Martin, who is retiring from the college this summer.. 

“As I reflect on my professional career that spans over 40 years, I feel gratitude for the opportunities and lessons learned,” said Dr. Martin, who was the first person in her family to attend college. “Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said ‘take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.’ I took the first step and so did you.

Dr. Martin said one of her most meaningful contributions to MATC was the creation of Wisconsin’s first free-tuition Promise program. More than 800 students have graduated from the college thanks to the MATC Promise scholarship. One of those was Dr. Martin’s niece, Danielle Krzeminski, who received her associate degree in Quality Engineering Technology.

The student speaker was Cheron Copeland, who received the Outstanding Associate Degree Graduate Award. She's a student in the college’s Nutrition and Dietetic Technician program

In the fall, Copeland will start classes at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to earn a bachelor’s degree in nutrition sciences and, eventually, a master’s degree in public health nutrition on the way to becoming a registered dietitian. At UWM she received a Froedtert Memorial Hospital Scholarship, which helps healthcare students cover costs necessary to complete their degree, including tuition, required books and supplies, and licensure exams. 

“I’ve suffered through hardship, loss, toxic people and even toxic places. At times I felt disheartened, but I committed myself to my goal of being a nutritionist and dietitian,” Copeland told her fellow graduates. “Be brave enough to try and be consistent enough to get results.”

“Anything you imagine is possible for you given the focus, dedication and opportunity to make it happen.” Copeland added. “I know that because at one point you imagined success as obtaining a degree from MATC and, well, here you are.”

Copeland didn’t miss a beat when a curtain at the rear of the podium unexpectedly fell over in a clatter. “As much as we try, sometimes things just happen,” she said as the crowd laughed and applauded. “But we just keep on going.”

The awarding of diplomas started on a somber note as the college conferred degrees posthumously to Sade Carleena Robinson in Criminal Justice Studies and to Amari Smith in Cosmetology.

See TV coverage of the ceremony

WISN Channel 12

FOX Channel 6

WTMJ Channel 4

CBS Channel 58

The commencement ceremony will be broadcast at 9 a.m. Saturday, June 15, on Milwaukee PBS Channel 36 and available on MATC’s YouTube channel.

About MATC: Wisconsin’s largest technical college and one of the most diverse two-year institutions in the Midwest, Milwaukee Area Technical College is a key driver of southeastern Wisconsin’s economy and has provided innovative education in the region since 1912. More than 30,000 students per year attend the college’s four campuses and community-based sites or learn online. MATC offers affordable and accessible education and training opportunities that empower and transform lives in the community. The college offers more than 180 academic programs — many that prepare students for jobs immediately upon completion and others that provide transfer options leading to bachelor’s degrees with more than 40 four-year colleges and universities. Overwhelmingly, MATC graduates build careers and businesses in southeastern Wisconsin. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.