Graduates Credit Help and Encouragement From Family Members
Families and friends gathered at the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) Leonardtown Campus Nov. 2 to recognize 26 students for earning their Maryland High School diplomas through the CSM Adult Education Program.
“Every graduate here has traveled a remarkable journey to reach this moment,” said student guest speaker, graduate Lillian Daniele Holland, in an emotional address. “For me, my journey was far from easy. I struggled through school my whole life and gave up until my Aunt Karen told me about this program … I probably wouldn’t be standing here without her support.”
Holland’s aunt and inspiration, Karen Colonna of Avenue, attended her niece’s graduation along with other family members and was all smiles at the reception afterward.
Colonna said she’d seen information about CSM’s Adult Education Program from a social media post last year when a friend’s brother was among the program’s first graduating class. Colonna clicked on an accompanying link for more information about the program and, after some research, suggested that the CSM program might be the answer for her niece’s struggles.
“We researched it and went to an orientation,” Colonna said, noting that the smaller class sizes and more chances for one-on-one learning were particularly attractive. She encouraged Holland to register for the program.
In addition to Holland, the fall 2017 graduates honored Nov. 2 were: Ashley E. Angle, Arman Ashraf, Dylan L. Bell, Victoria N. Benton, Caleb Neal Boteler, Thomas Bradley Bowling, Damita J. Butler, Ashley Rae Cameron, Nicole E. David, John T. Garrow, Richele J. Ince, Markayla I. Jones, Amber Rosetta Joy, Timothy D. Kaminski, Taylor Nicole Knott, Brittany Lackey, Kevin R. Martin, Nicole Marie Oliver, Oneyda Patricia Ortiz, Paul K. Plymire III, Davisha Monique Proctor, Crystal Lynn Quesenberry, Shelli L. Reatherford, Felicity Nicole Smith and Douglas B. Sprouse.
After the ceremony, Sprouse’s family met up with him on the way to the reception, which was held at the Wellness and Aquatics Center on campus. Sprouse’s younger brother, Eric Huntington, hugged him, saying, “Proud of you, man!”
Completing the Adult Education program and earning his diploma was “very exciting,” Sprouse said. “Very fulfilling. I completed this first step in life.”
Sprouse, 27, said he was leery initially of stepping back in to the classroom and he wondered how much he’d remember from his classes at Great Mills High School. “I think that’s why I waited so long,” he said.
Encouraged by his family and his fiancée, however, Sprouse entered the program. “The staff here was great. Very helpful,” he said. “I came and I passed everything the first time.”
This year, CSM has introduced a scholarship program designed specifically to benefit these students as they graduate with their high school diploma, and CSM President Dr. Maureen Murphy announced the program during the Nov. 2 event. All Adult Education graduates participating in a program in the tri-county area who apply to CSM will be sent an acceptance email to attend the college. To benefit from this new scholarship, all they have to do as a graduate is print that acceptance email and bring it to CSM along with the certificate they received at graduation and they will receive a $500 scholarship that will be automatically credited to their account.
“The CSM Foundation has graciously provided these funds for our Adult Education Scholarship, and it’s a way to recognize and congratulate these students on their hard work,” Murphy said. “Plus, it’s an incentive to let you know we believe in you and are here to help you take that next step.”
The family of one graduate, Ortiz, including her husband, Gregory Ortiz, and three of their four children, sat together near the front of the auditorium, proudly watching as Oneyda Ortiz graduated. “It’s been a wonderful experience,” Gregory Ortiz said of his wife’s accomplishment. He said the whole family helped her study and cheered her on.
“It was hard,” Oneyda Ortiz said after the ceremony. “The math took two tries. But I kept studying.”
Now that she has reached this goal, Oneyda Ortiz said she is very happy, and she’s “ready to get to the next level.” She is planning to study nursing at CSM and is excited about the new scholarship that will help her pay for those studies.
St. Mary’s County Board of Education Vice Chairman Mary M. Washington and Member At-Large Cathy Allen were among the government officials who attended the event. “I just love this program,” Washington said. “These students never quit. They went through many challenges and obstacles to get their GED. And I just admire them so much … They are winners.”
CSM Vice President of the Leonardtown Campus Dr. Tracy Harris described the CSM Adult Education during his remarks. The program provides classes to cover all areas of basic reading, writing and math as needed to prepare for the GED test or the National External Diploma Program, and English as a Second Language Classes to provide basic English language and life skill instruction for adults whose native language is not English, Harris said.
There is also a family literacy course that focuses on the development of workforce skills and GED test preparation to increase students’ education and employability skills while learning to support their child’s academic development. Instruction is available to help parents in becoming their child’s primary teacher and full partners in the education of their child.
“The classes are small so that learning can be individualized to meet the needs of each student,” Harris said.
Partners with CSM in the Adult Education Program include the St. Mary’s County Detention Center, St. Mary’s County Library, St. Mary’s County Public Schools and the Judy Center. The Adult Education Program at CSM is supported through grant funding by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, the U.S. Department of Education, and local funding. Because of this funding, most classes are free.
“This is an important component,” said CSM Vice President Dan Mosser, “since offering free or inexpensive courses for adults living in St. Mary’s County who are motivated and want to expand their job opportunities, or build their working knowledge of English as a second language or earn their GED. We hope to remove any cost barriers that may have held people back in the past.”
To view photos from the Nov. 2 graduation, visit http://csmphoto.zenfolio.com/17stmarysged.
The next two orientations for the CSM Adult Education Program in St. Mary’s County will be held at 6 p.m. Dec. 5 and 6 (must attend both nights) at Great Mills High School and 9 a.m. Dec. 8 at the Leonardtown Campus, B Building, Room 214. Orientation is free, but participants need to register by calling 240-725-5473 before attending.