It’s graduation time for many colleges and universities around the country.

In fact, Minot State University had more than 600 graduates walk across the stage on Friday.

Two students from the Dakota College at Bottineau got to walk with MSU students on Friday and they even got special recognition of their own the day before.

On Thursday, the Advancing Students Towards Education and Employment Program, or ASTEP, held a ceremony to recognize graduates Braden Tooz and Elizabeth Romanick.

ASTEP helps students with intellectual and developmental disabilities get the college experience and prepare for life.

“You came to school, you studied, you went to class even on days when you didn’t want to, you jumped through all the hoops, and you finished strong,” said Lori Garnes, the executive director of the North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities. “You did all of the things that every other college student at every other university does.”

Tooz and Romanick were commended for completing the requirements necessary to finish.

“And by completing those requirements you have gained skills needed for independent living, as well as being successful in the workplace,” said Tracey Olson, the ASTEP director.

One of the ASTEP requirements is completing an employment internship.

Tooz was able to help out the Minotauros and he says he’s happy to be an ASTEP graduate.

“I’m really excited,” he said.

Romanick says it’s relieving to be a graduate and she’s happy she can take a moment to breathe.

She has a message for people with disabilities that think they can’t go to college.

“If they think they can’t I would say, ‘Get up! Try again!’ They can just use their voices and be heard, be seen. I want them to know that they can embrace the world, they can change their own world. They can change their whole story. I want them to know to bring joy, bring all these different abilities they can bring to campus.”

Tooz and Romanick both walked across the stage at the 2022 Minot State Commencement Ceremony on Friday morning.

ASTEP is an inclusive program, so students that participate can attend college courses with other students with or without disabilities.