It’s okay to be influenced by past experiences as long as you don’t let them define who you are.

That’s Haiden Kreber’s philosophy.

The Sutherland woman has been selected as this year’s student commencement speaker at North Platte Community College. When she walks across the stage to accept her two degrees – one an Associate of Arts, the other an Associate of Science – she will be accomplishing something huge.

“Not only will I be receiving two degrees, but I will be doing so as the first person in my immediate family to go to college,” Kreber said. “It’s super exciting.”

It’s also the first step on the path to a bright future — one she wasn’t always so optimistic about.

“My mom passed away when I was really young, and my dad remarried,” Kreber said. “I grew up with a tough home life — domestic abuse, drugs, alcohol, you name it. It’s part of who I am, and I’m not ashamed of that.”

The circumstances, along with her Christian faith, did play a part in who she wants to become.

“I have really big goals,” Kreber said. “Growing up, I had to choose between two different paths — the one my family members were on, or the high road. I chose the high road, because I don’t want to live the other lifestyle. At times, that was a very challenging decision to make. It has also been empowering to finally reach the point that I’m at now.”

Kreber graduated from Sutherland High School in 2018 then enrolled at NPCC, about 20 miles down the road.

“I decided I couldn’t go very far away because I still had two younger siblings at home, and I wanted to be close to them,” Kreber said. “The biggest reason I chose NPCC was because I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do after I graduated, and I thought going to a community college would be a less expensive option for getting my generals out of the way. After I got offered a scholarship to play volleyball at NPCC, it was a no-brainer.”

Volleyball had been a tremendous outlet for Kreber while she was in high school, so she was thrilled to be able to continue playing at the college level.

She soon found herself falling in love with everything about NPCC, from its small class sizes to its family-like atmosphere.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Kreber said. “NPCC was just what I needed, when I needed it. Coming from a small school, I think I would have struggled my first two years if I would have gone to a larger four-year college or university. NPCC prepared me for that transition.”

Not only did Kreber find a strong support system in her volleyball teammates and coaches, but the instructors were consistently there for her as well.

“The instructors have been a big part of why my experience was so great at NPCC,” Kreber said. “I’ve become close with so many of them that it’s going to be hard to say goodbye. The instructors really are what makes the college so unique and a first-choice school.”

Kreber will transfer to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in the fall. The next time she starts classes, it will be with a clear direction.

“I kind of found myself at NPCC,” Kreber said. “I tell everyone that I want to be Dr. Phil.”

She plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in child and family studies with a minor in psychology at UNL. After that, her goal is to immediately enter grad school to pursue a master’s degree in community counseling.

“I would love to eventually open up my own clinic and do some family and marriage counseling,” Kreber said. “I’ve decided that my passion is helping people. I had a great support network in the Sutherland community members. They are the ones who raised me and made me who I am. I want to be that for somebody someday.”

Kreber will share more of her story during NPCC’s commencement program July 31. The ceremony will begin at 3 p.m. in the McDonald-Belton Gymnasium on NPCC’s South Campus, 601 W. State Farm Rd.