Simon French, 28, of Port Republic graduates from the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) on Jan. 18 with an appreciation for the opportunities open to him in the United States.
French grew up in a working class family in England. After graduating from high school, he didn’t consider attending university to be a possibility because of the cost. Instead, he began working full time. “This helped me gain my professional coaching badges and allowed me to travel to America at 21 and begin coaching,” French said. “It wasn’t until I had been here for a couple of years on various visas that I began to consider a more long-term future.”
French decided that he wanted to pursue a career as an air marshal, and he realized that he needed to pursue a college education to make that happen. He chose to start his college education at CSM because it was affordable, because of the college’s multiple transfer opportunities and “due to the fact that I felt so welcomed on my initial visit,” he said.
“At 26, I began at CSM though I was terrified that it was too late to start again,” he said, adding that his concerns were soon set to rest. “The resources and support network I received from CSM allowed me to settle quickly and achieve the grades I am proud to have gained. No question has ever been unanswered, no challenge has never been met and this is all due to the staff at the college.”
In addition to his appreciation for CSM, French said he is impressed with the opportunities available in this country. “This change in lifestyle has been the best thing that happened to me,” he said. “The education I have received, coupled with the experience of American culture has developed me more within myself than any other life experience. It was a huge gamble when I first began my college pathway, but it has been my greatest victory to date.
“America empowers people to live the life they want, through hard work and dedication, and from a foreign perspective, the American dream is very much alive. You simply have to want it,” French said.
French graduates from CSM with an associate degree in criminal justice. He also leaves CSM having met his wife and marrying during his years at the college. He will continue his education at Old Dominion University, working toward a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and cybersecurity.
While attending CSM, French served as the assistant soccer coach for the CSM Men’s Soccer team for two years and for the CSM Women’s Soccer team for one year. “Working within the CSM athletics department allowed me to both give back to the college and forward my professional development,” French said. “Being a mature student and coach allowed me to appreciate the challenges our student athletes face and ensure that they have the resources available to compete at the highest level, while balancing their studies for educational success. For many of our athletes, sport is key to their college life and pathway; the work our athletics department does to assist students is a credit to our college.”
French leaves CSM with an appreciation for the community college option.
“I would highly recommend for any aspiring college student to begin at CSM or any other community college,” he said. “It allows for personal development and educational progression within an environment that brings the best out in you. Many of our students are juggling employment, family and stress of educational needs within their daily life and continue to come out on top. What community college does for student maturity is key to the success they will later experience in life, and, although things seems tough now, the reality is a bright future for CSM students.”
For more on the 2018 winter commencement keynote speaker click here.
For information on CSM, visit www.csmd.edu. Photos from graduation will be posted to csmphoto.zenfolio.com/18jangrad after Jan. 18.