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Mercer family prepares to graduate together at GCC


May 9, 2018

Submitted photo

Mary Engler, center, and her two children D'kota, left, and Alexis, all of Mercer, Wis., will graduate Friday from Gogebic Community College. The commencement ceremony is planned for 6:30 p.m. in the David G. Lindquist Center gymnasium.


Gogebic Community College

Ironwood - Last year while Mary Engler and her two children, D'kota and Alexis, all of Mercer, Wis., were planning their future course schedules, Mary was the first to realize they would all graduate together from Gogebic Community College on the same day - this Friday.

"That was when it became exciting," said Mary. She will receive an Associate in Applied Business with an accounting specialty, D'kota an Associate in Applied Technology in mechanical engineering technology, and Alexis, or "Lexi," an Associate of Applied Science in early childhood education.

Mary graduated from Mercer High School in 1989 and immediately moved away with intentions of never moving back. She attended Cardinal Stritch University for a year. In 1991, she married her high school sweetheart, Todd, and moved to Wichita, Kan., where she attended Wichita State University for a year. In 1997, after Todd was discharged from the Air Force, they moved back to Mercer to raise their kids where they grew up.

"We are all Mercer High School graduates," said Mary. D'kota graduated in 2014 and Alexis in 2015.

Mary said her degree is personal and sentimental, as she promised her dad 29 years ago that she would earn a college degree. "My dad is no longer with us, but my promise to him remains."

"I always joked with Lexi that I was going to go to college with her when the time came," said Mary. "I didn't really mean that, but I wasn't sure how I would manage the empty nest syndrome."

While helping Alexis with her financial aid application prior to her second year at GCC, Mary decided to fill one out for herself. She was surprised to find out that she could afford to go back to college and earn the degree that she started so many years ago.

School days

D'kota and Alexis entered GCC immediately following high school graduation. D'kota started as an engineering major and later changed to mechanical engineering technology. "I really liked Dennis Svoke as an instructor," said D'kota.

Alexis knew she wanted to major in early childhood education, even though the major isn't offered at the Ironwood campus.

"I was able to complete the courses through interactive television from the Copper Country Center in Houghton which was nice because I wanted to play basketball and didn't have to travel up there," said Alexis.

She joined the Lady Samsons' Basketball team in the fall of 2015, but on Nov. 17 that same year, while playing in her first college game, Lexi had a season-ending injury - a torn ACL.

"I was devastated knowing that my season was over," said Lexi.

Fortunately, she kept her two-year eligibility and joined the team the following two years and was a big part of this year's team which went to the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II national tournament. Lexi was named to the NJCAA Region 13 Division II team along with earning other team awards.

The Engler trio kept busy outside of the classroom. Lexi juggled basketball and classes while also serving as a work-study student in the Lindquist Student and Conference Center. D'kota worked part-time while attending classes and also remained an active member of the Mercer Fire Department.

Online classes enabled Mary to continue her employment as a full-time senior teller at Associated Bank in Mercer. "It was nice because I knew that I could reach out to my instructors at any time with questions," she said.

D'kota and Alexis were both members of the TRiO Student Support Services program. Alexis lived in Campus Suites and participated in many student activities at the college including movie nights, formal dances and game nights.

When asked if the three ever had any classes together, Alexis recalled having Introduction to American Government with her brother, where they collaborated on a project together.

The Englers did help each other out with assignments and studying while also comparing grades. "We pushed each other to do better with friendly competition," said D'kota. Lexi recalled forgetting her basketball stuff for practice one day and D'kota rushing it to Ironwood for her. She also mentioned being stranded on U.S. 2 heading to school and D'kota came to her rescue once again.

As for the future, D'kota plans to enlist in the Wisconsin Air National Guard and seek employment in the mechanical engineering technology field in Wisconsin. Lexi's long term goal is to open up a daycare in the Mercer area, but her short-term plan is to work at a local day care center or the two-year-old program at the Mercer School. Mary plans to remain with the bank, knowing that her accounting degree will be helpful.

They all chose GCC because of the small class sizes where they received personalized attention along with being close to home.

"Going to college together is not something that we planned, but it's been fun. Gogebic has been a wonderful fit for all of us," said Mary.

Friday's commencement ceremony is set for 6:30 p.m. in the David G. Lindquist Center gymnasium.

Editor's note: Kim Zeckovich is director of admissions, marketing and community relations at Gogebic Community College in Ironwood.


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