Few people have likely watched as many Blugolds walk across the Zorn Arena stage during their graduation ceremonies as Rachel Kohn.
For nearly three decades, Rachel has served as the interpreter for the deaf at every UW-Eau Claire commencement ceremony.
“I have, literally, seen more than 42,000 students cross the stage during these past 28 years,” says Rachel, who also works full-time as an interpreter for the Eau Claire Area School District. “It's such a happy day and I feel so proud for those students even though I don't even know most of them.”
While she always enjoys being part of the hoopla that surrounds UW-Eau Claire’s graduation day, she already knows that the afternoon ceremony on May 21 will be the best one … ever.
Rachel’s son, Christopher Kohn, will be among the graduates.
“This time it will be extra special,” Kohn says. “My son, Chris, will be graduating with a biology degree from UWEC.”
She’s looking forward to standing on the stage as both an interpreter and the proud mom of a brand new UW-Eau Claire graduate.
“Chris has had an extremely full plate these past six years,” Rachel says. “He's been a full-time biology student, a National Guard and ROTC member, and nearly full-time employee working as a house supervisor at a group home for the mentally ill. I am extremely proud of him!”
In addition to providing her services during UW-Eau Claire’s fall and spring commencement ceremonies, Rachel also serves as an interpreter during the university’s The Forum presentations and special events, and in recent years she has taught sign language through UW-Eau Claire Continuing Education.
Being so involved with the UW-Eau Claire campus community has given her an appreciation for just how many extraordinary people call themselves Blugolds.
While she admits to being a tad biased, Rachel says her son ranks right up there with the best of them.
“His story definitely represents The Power of And,” Rachel says, referring to UW-Eau Claire’s commitment to ensuring that its students can pursue multiple passions as a Blugold.
“He’s a full-time student AND a member of the National Guard AND was part of the ROTC Program for two years. He took one semester off to attend basic training AND during the following school year was named Brigade Soldier of the Year after a year's worth of training. AND he also worked 24-30 hours a week over these six years as a house supervisor in a group home for the mentally ill. He's been one busy guy.”
Chris is continuing to juggle his multiple ANDs right up until the end of his college career. He will finish his classes, leave for his National Guard weekend commitment and return just in time to begin his week of final exams.
Following his graduation, Chris will continue his military career, where he will hone his already strong leadership skills.
While no other UW-Eau Claire commencement ceremony will likely top this one, Rachel says she looks forward to continuing her work with UW-Eau Claire.
Top photo caption: Rachel Kohn (right) has been the interpreter for the deaf at every UW-Eau Claire commencement ceremony for nearly 30 years.