Kamras, pubic relations coordinator with the college. He said 900 people were in the college’s gymnasium for the ceremony.
The ceremony included student speakers delivering what the college called “student reflections.” In Mathis’ speech, she shared how her son motivated her to come back to school and major in social work.
Before the ceremony, she said her son, Cory, became an addict while recovering from injuries he sustained during a deployment in Afghanistan. Cory, a sergeant with the Marine Corps and a threetime Purple Heart recipient, was deployed in 2009, she added.
Mathis said her son underwent surgery to have his spleen removed before he was transferred to Walter Reed Medical Center. He endured 18 operations during his two weeks at the medical center, where debris was cleaned out, his legs rebuilt and his wounds cared for, she said.
Her son had to learn how to walk again and went through therapy to help him cope with his brain injury and post- traumatic stress disorder. He was sent home to North Carolina with non- refillable 30- day medication prescriptions. He medically retired from the military due to his injuries.
Two years later, his application with the Veterans Affairs was accepted, where doctors re- evaluated his injuries and sent him home with more prescriptions. By that time, Mathis said her son had become an addict, and turned to street drugs to deal with his physical and psychological pain.
Seeing the challenges her son endured from the “lack of aftercare he received,” Mathis said she decided to go back to school. After a “lengthy discussion” with her husband, they closed their business and she started school. She said she realized a high school degree was not going to get her to where she needed to be as a counselor and advocate.
“I now had a passion for advocating for those who could not articulate their needs,” Mathis said. “I wanted to join the ranks of individuals who selflessly championed for our Marines, soldiers and members of the community.”
She said Cecil College provided her the opportunity to achieve her goal. Mathis said she participated in numerous internships during her time at the college. She said she is taking classes at Salisbury University through their satellite campus at Cecil College for her bachelor’s degree in social work.
After the ceremony, Mathis said her son has been in recovery for several months.
“Recovery is a lifelong process,” Mathis said.
Randy Mathis, Tyle- thea’s husband, said he felt “extremely proud” that she graduated.
“I just wish we could have done it sooner, but it all works out,” Randy said.
After the ceremony, Stephanie Forrest, 39, of Elkton, said she felt excited to have graduated from the college with an associate degree in nursing.
Forrest is a member of the college’s Alpha Alpha Theta chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. She said she will continue her nursing education at Western Governors University.
“It’s taken me 20 years to get here,” Forrest said.
Cecil College students attend Cecil College’s 47th commencement on Sunday.
Cecil College President Mary Way Bolt speaks during the ceremony on Sunday.