College of Southern Maryland graduate Christopher Kyle Green acknowledges the audience as he steps on the stage to receive his diploma, during the College of Southern Maryland's 52nd commencement ceremony in La Plata on Thursday.
Keynote speaker Freeman A. Hrabowski III gave two pieces of advice to the graduates of the College of Southern Maryland last week — to savor the moment, and to know and be inspired by their own story.
Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County, spoke to the 430 graduates at the 52nd CSM commencement, held at the La Plata campus on Thursday.
CSM President Bradley M. Gottfried noted that all of the graduates had a story, from one graduate earning an associate degree in computer science at 16, to another one returning to school after 50 years and earning an associate degree at 67.
Student Olivia Wolski, 16, of Dunkirk said she was homeschooled before attending CSM. She said she had planned on taking a few classes at CSM while in high school, as many high school students do who are enrolled in local public schools.
When she discovered that she had earned enough credits to finish high school at 14, she said she might as well just enroll full time at the college.
And she did.
While it was a bit of an adjustment going from the only student in her class to being one of many, she said she enjoyed her experience at the college.
Olivia took classes at all three of the college's campuses — in La Plata, Prince Frederick and Leonardtown — and participated in a few online courses, too.
Another success story came from Melissa Burch, 25, of Mechanicsville who said, "It's about time," when asked how it felt to be graduating Thursday evening.
Burch, who is legally blind, explained that it took seven years and two schools to complete her associate degree in general studies, but that she is glad she did it.
"It took me longer, but I'm here," she said.
Though she recalled being advised at a young age not to attend college, that it wouldn't suit her being legally blind, Burch said she pressed on.
She said she is not finished. She plans to further her education at the University of Maryland University College.
"Know your story," Hrabowski said multiple times to the new graduates during his address on Thursday.
"Each of you stands on the shoulder of someone who brought you here today," he said.
For Susan Corder, 21, of Mechanicsville, that person is her mother.
"She encouraged me," Corder said in the moments before marching into the ceremony.
Corder said she plans to continue her education at the University of Central Florida, where she plans to seek a degree in event management and one day a master's, also in event management.
Corder is the first in her family to receive a degree, and her two sisters and mother are currently seeking degrees by taking courses at CSM, she said.
"I'm really excited and very proud of myself and classmates," Croder said.
CSM awarded 482 associate degrees and 198 certificates, according to college officials.
An honorary degree was presented to U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) for his loyalty and friendship to the college.
According to college officials, of the candidates for graduation, 70 percent were female; 45.3 percent were from Charles County, 29.8 percent from St.Mary's County and 21.2 percent were from Calvert County; and 3.8 percent were from outside the region.
"It's a great place to learn what your career goals are, and it's not as expensive," said graduate Tyler Iverson, 20, of White Plains about CSM being a good choice prior to a university. Iverson will attend University of Maryland, College Park in the fall.
This was the first year the school had a graduate — Ana-Alecia Stauffer, 24, of Hollywood — in its new scholars program, a selective program for students seeking a more rigorous course of study, Gottfried said Thursday. Stauffer wore special cords in the ceremony to represent the scholars program.
To complete the program, Stauffer said she had to pass 12 honors level credits. Her program was more rigorous because she was required to complete a special project or expand on an existing project in her classes.
"It pushed me to develop my skills," Stauffer said.
Stauffer, who earned an associate's degree in arts and sciences, plans to attend the University of Maryland, College Park in the future.
Gottfried said he and staff were proud of all of the graduates, and he let all the graduates know that "if they can succeed here, and they have, they can succeed anywhere."
CSM graduates from St. Mary's
Avenue: Caroline Marie Middleton, Amy Camille Sims, Candace N. Thompson, Michelle Kay Williams
Bushwood: Steven Matthew Oliver
California: Matthan T. Lee, Aaron A. Brewster, Margherita Brown, Laura E. Coontz, Patricia Famiglietti, Mark Anthony Daniel Johnson, Andrew James Macala, Jay Thomas Martin, Laura M. Mondro, Esther Lucie Ngounou, Holly L. Owens, Rhosheeda Aundreya Proctor, Katherine Marie Reyes, Stephanie Ann Scott, Nicholas Scott Spohnholtz, Julia Erin Tucker, Amanda J. Wedding
Great Mills: Rebecca Lynn Badilla, Micah Loren Calloway, Charles Layne Cox, Catina M. Goldring, Jonathan Russell Griffith, Faith S. Hall, Heather Hoffman, Justine E. Karstens, Ashleigh Marie Minton, Jennifer Nichole Reese, Lakea LaShawn Stewart, Logan Lanier Thompson, Shirley Annaliza Tumang, Timothy C. Wagner, Mary Leslie Wills
Hollywood: Katie Lynn Heaton, Christina deVos, Anthony JaJuan Fenwick, Patrick Russell Hill, Darryl James Johnson, Randall P. Nelson, Sheryl Marie Pope, Phillip Anthony Samrow, Ana-Alecia Stauffer, Jessica L. Thompson, Eleshia Wible, Debra Williams
Leonardtown: Tanya J. Bronson, DeVonte' Marquis Carroll, Amanda Diane Feiser, Sarah L. Fitzgerald, Susan Marie Frazier, Sierra Noel Houghton, Janis Smith Jacobs, Deanna C. Kelly, Janet Sullivan Persson, Jordan Rio, Jonathan D. Shaner, Katherine Morgan Thompson, Mariah Christine Vaughan, Amanda J. Wedding, Ellen Elizabeth Whitmore
Lexington Park: Veronique Adams, Chris Scott Adkins, Shannon Alyce Boone, Michael Craig Branson, Jordan K. Bridgman, Natasha Lee Brown, Nicole M. Davis-Burks, W. Christopher Chisler, Sarah Katherine Coffey, Kathleen Coontz, Rosalyn A. Dickerson, Freida Antionette Lucas, Ashley V. Huffman, Tia Marie Vaughn, Andrew S. Kelly, Jessica Marie Kelp, Mary E. Kessler, Christine Marie Kodluboy, Martha Perla Kuntz, Sabrina Lynn Lemanski, Lawrence Edward Louden, Crystal Marie Valenton Mabanta, Ann Marie Madden, Lakeesha S. McKnight, Wanda Lowelyn Toledo Ocado, Feifei Peng, Lori Ann Puckett, Jeremy A. Shultz, Lyn Caldwell Stachyra, Charlie-Marie C. Stamm, Victoria Ing Taylor, Robert Boothe Vallandingham
Mechanicsville: Jenna M. Auman, Melissa Marie Burch, Gene Nathan Burch, Daniel R. Burroughs, Kaitlin Jo Cashman, Susan Eileen Corder, Brenda Lynn Dale, Wendy Marie Gavin, Tammy Marie Walls-Gilleland, Jessica Amber Grigg, Carl Wayne Hewitt, Tiffany Faye Hill, Rebecca Ann Johnson, Anthony Francis Kirby Jr., Amanda Marie Kovacic, Toni Maria Zanelotti Kruszka, Jessica Ann LoSchiavo, Taryn Lowry, Cady Marie Merkle, Sandra L. Overby, Tammy Lynn Owen, Kristina Leigh Pagel, Samantha Pape, Kalley Elizabeth Peters, Caitlin Erlene Rowan, Dwight Savoy Jr., Amy Mae Schofield, Brian J. Taylor, Nicole Lynn Thompson, Terri Leigh Bellere Thompson, Rebecca Michelle Williams, Samantha Marie Zanelotti