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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — It's not often that a husband and wife graduate college the same day at age 20.
But the Schmeichels will earn associate's degrees from Bismarck State College together on May 15, the Bismarck Tribune (http://bit.ly/1EON6sS ) reported.
Jessica Schmeichel met her husband, Landen, the summer before her sophomore year of high school on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
"I liked him right away," Jessica Schmeichel said. "I saw him, and he was all cowboy. Being a city girl, I wasn't used to that. I liked the boots."
They connected through their two churches — hers in Minneapolis and his in McLaughlin, South Dakota. In fact, they still make the hour-long drive from their home south of Mandan to McLaughlin every Sunday to assist Landen Schmeichel's parents with church activities.
"We have a little yellow bus," Landen Schmeichel said. "When kids see it coming, they're dancing and screaming."
He drives youngsters on the reservation to his parents' church, Freedom Fellowship, where they file in for breakfast and worship.
It's not unusual for him and his wife to scramble nine or 10 dozen eggs on a given Sunday morning.
He often witnesses a change in kids who get on the bus for the first time, looking alone and desperate. Later that day, they ride home with their eyes lit up, having developed a sense of "I matter."
"It's almost sad to see that transition happen every week, but it's also encouraging," he said.
The Schmeichels say their Sundays in McLaughlin help prep them for their careers — both husband and wife want to be teachers and plan to pursue bachelor's degrees through Dickinson State University on the Bismarck State College campus next year.
Despite their common interests, they have had only a handful of classes together the past two years. They like it when that happens.
"I'm really spacey, and she remembers things really well," Landen Schmeichel said. "I'll ask, 'Do we have anything due in this class?'"
His wife laughed before chiming in.
"It's like having a constant study buddy," she said.
Bismarck State College chose Landen Schmeichel as the student speaker at the commencement ceremony this year.
He said he plans to talk about living a life that is "full and conscious and responsible," words by writer and farmer Wendell Berry that he will elaborate on graduation day.
His professors say he has embodied a full college experience.
English professor Jane Schreck recalled a conversation during Landen Schmeichel's first semester at Bismarck State College when he came to her for advice on changing majors.
"We talked about how all the disciplines are interrelated. They get stronger together," she said.
Their discussion struck her — she realized Landen Schmeichel had exactly the right perspective on education.
"There's a great tendency in our society these days to just blow through college, get it out of the way," she said. "It's a real treat to have a student who recognizes there are opportunities to learn and enough interest to want to learn."
Landen and Jessica Schmeichel are among the 696 students graduating from Bismarck State College this spring.
Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com
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