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Kelsey Bakalar’s commencement ceremony will be a little more special than most.

On Saturday, May 12, when she steps on stage to receive her Master of Science in School Leadership diploma, the person waiting to hand it to her will be her dad.

Dr. Russ Kokoruda, a well-known former principal at Blue Valley Northwest High School and Baker’s own School of Education professor, requested this special honor for his daughter.

“I am an extremely proud parent,” said Kokoruda. “Kelsey has worked diligently at being a knowledgeable, caring educator. I am thankful to Baker for allowing me to personally present her diploma in recognition of her hard work.”

Bakalar is thrilled to see it all come to fruition.

“I have always wanted to plow my own path, so to speak, but inevitably, I have followed in my dad’s footsteps,” she said. “He has been a mentor to me. It will be a powerful experience to receive my diploma from him.”

Oddly enough, earning an administration degree is not a path Bakalar originally saw herself on.

“I already have a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction and thought I never wanted to pursue administration,” she said. “Two years ago, when I mentored a student teacher and felt the calling, I knew it was time to go back.”

After researching several universities, she knew Baker would be right for her.

“When it came time to make my decision, I knew Baker was right because of the cohort setup and because of the faculty,” Bakalar said. “My teachers were local, experienced, and reputable and completely invested in my success as an educational leader.”

The faculty led to an amazing educational experience.

“[The Baker experience] was even better than I imagined it would be,” said Bakalar. “I’ve developed relationships with teachers who continue to support me, even though I’m not in their classes anymore. My cohort is extremely close, and I anticipate that we will continue to be a support system for each other.”

The curriculum objectives left her feeling prepared personally and professionally.

“I learned so much,” she said. “When I reflect on where I was two years ago, I think I have grown exponentially as a result of the curriculum and the rigor.”

Bakalar will serve as the interim assistant principal at Blue Valley North High School and feels ready to walk across the stage and begin this new chapter in her career.

“I feel like I know what to expect as I pursue this career change, and I have the tools to be successful,” she said.

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