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Marshall’s Class of 2012 Begins Next Journey

First blind person to receive an MBA from Harvard tells 363 graduates to put themselves first.

Instead of heading off to college in the fall like most of her fellow School graduates, Kristine Monsen is headed back to high school for another year.

Monsen, 17, is from Norway and in her country students must complete 13 years of schooling before they can attend college. In a few short weeks, Monsen will be back in Norway but not without her memories of her American experience.

“Graduation day is such a memorable day for me,” Monsen said. “You’ve done so much to get here and then you can’t stop from being happy.”

Monsen was among the 363 students participating in Marshall’s  49th commencement ceremony Friday morning at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. The class of 2012 included more than 90 International Baccalaureate Diploma candidates and a host of students belonging to various honor societies. Jim Gibbons, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International, served as commencement speaker.

Sounding more like a flight attendant addressing a plane of first time flyers, Gibbons told the graduates to grab life’s oxygen mask and put it on first. Gibbons reminded the group that they've had help from family, teachers and friends to get to where they are today, but as they embark on the next chapter of their lives, it was now the time to put themselves first.

“This next stage of your journey is yours,” said Gibbons, the first blind person to receive an MBA from Harvard. “Think differently about this next stage of your life.”

The next stage of life will separate Andrew McKenzie and Ivan Perez, who despite many differences, have a friendship that spans just over two years. McKenzie, 17, is very tall and Perez, 18, didn’t break the six-foot tall mark; Perez will be attending the College of William and Mary in the fall to study computer science while McKenzie will be heading back to his native Australia to attend school there.

Perez doubts he will miss his high school days because by his account, he didn’t do too much. But McKenzie marveled at the commencement ceremony.

“I plan on coming back to America after I graduate college,” McKenzie said. “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The friends I made helped make it an easy process fitting in.”

Have photos from the ceremony? Share them on Patch by uploading to this gallery.

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