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PR-B senior speaks at CLC graduation

Pine River-Backus High School senior Mandy Fontenot has always liked a challenge. It's why she's graduating this spring from both high school and Central Lakes College (CLC) with her Associate in Arts Degree. It's why she was named one of CLC's g...

Mandy Fontenot (submitted photo)
Mandy Fontenot

Pine River-Backus High School senior Mandy Fontenot has always liked a challenge.

It's why she's graduating this spring from both high school and Central Lakes College (CLC) with her Associate in Arts Degree.

It's why she was named one of CLC's graduation speakers.

And it's why she decided to join the Honors Program, which was revitalized this year at the college, when she chose CLC.

The Pine River teenager has always liked the idea of questioning, analyzing everything.

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So when CLC English instructor and Honors Program Coordinator Adam Marcotte invited Fontenot to check out the Honors Program, she jumped at the opportunity.

"The classes aren't harder. They focus on conversations deeper than other classes," she said. "It's not all surface-level thinking. It's questioning ideas versus just covering them."

Plus Fontenot liked the teachers and wanted that extra challenge.

As she completed her 12 credits of honors courses, Fontenot said her critical thinking skills advanced and she made a few new friends along the way.

"You meet people who challenge you versus just small talk," she said. "That's helpful in life."

It's about being able to support your stance on something when others have opposing ideas, she added.

The Honors Program represents all the best aspects of a private education, but it takes place in a public, affordably priced community college setting, said Marcotte.

In the program, students get faculty in small groups right away, so they can make the most of their first two years of post-secondary education. At larger or private schools, that type of interaction doesn't happen until the third or fourth year of school, he said.

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Other benefits: College transcripts note honors courses, showing academic excellence to future employers, academic institutions and scholarship committees.

Students can also go to national conferences and enhance communication skills.

"The Honors Program values skilled leadership. It's not enough to be courageous or brave," Marcotte said. "Leaders must also have skills so that when they raise their hand and strive to make a difference in the world, they can. Starting with the Honors Leadership Development class, students gain the skills they will need to act on the knowledge and skills they will earn in the remaining Honors courses. Put simply, the Honors Program lives up to it's motto: Explore, aspire, lead."

While at CLC, Fontenot also excelled in writing. She won multiple CLC Writing Awards for poetry and she worked as a writing tutor in the CLC Learning Commons.

She also consulted with faculty committees on retention and represented the Honors Program to other students, faculty, administration and Minnesota state representatives.

This fall, Fontenot will attend the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where she will pursue a degree in English literature.

Her advice to other students: Join the CLC Honors Program and don't be afraid to challenge yourself.

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