CSM holds 18th an­nual win­ter grad­u­a­tion

988 awarded de­grees Thurs­day

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com

One grad­u­ate sur­vived a 40-foot plunge off the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Bridge; another waited decades to ful­fill her dream of at­tend­ing col­lege. No mat­ter their back­ground, ev­ery Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land stu­dent had a story that led to their walk­ing across the stage last week to re­ceive their diploma.

CSM held its 18th An­nual Win­ter Com­mence­ment last Thurs­day, rec­og­niz­ing the grad­u­a­tion of 688 at­tend­ing stu­dents in its as­so­ci­ate’s de­gree and cer­tifi­cate pro­grams on its La Plata cam­pus in the Phys­i­cal Ed­u­ca­tion build­ing gym­na­sium.

“Ev­ery one of our stu­dents has a story, and I wish I could tell you about ev­ery one of them,” CSM Pres­i­dent Bradley Got­tfried said. “This is what this col­lege is about; it’s about hopes, it’s about dreams, and it’s about help­ing stu­dents move in the right di­rec­tion to­wards their fu­ture.”

In all, the col­lege awarded 688 as­so­ci­ate de­grees and 320 cer­tifi­cates, although not all grad­u­ates were in at­ten­dance.

The ma­jor­ity of grad­u­ates, 92 per­cent, hail from South­ern Mary­land, ac­cord­ing to CSM, and 20 per­cent of grad­u­ates earned a Grade Point Av­er­age of 3.5 or greater.

For Lusby na­tive Mor­gan Lake, only mirac­u­lous for­tune and a sheer will to live al­lowed her long-de­layed grad­u­a­tion.

On July 19, 2013, Lake, now of Bowie, was struck by a trac­tor trailer on the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Bridge, which connects Mary­land’s Eastern Shore and Western Shore, while driv­ing to Philadel­phia to visit friends.

“As soon as he hit me, ev­ery­thing ex­ploded,” Lake re­called. “The force of the im­pact pushed me into the car in front of me, sand­wiched me, then the sec­ond im­pact pushed me onto the jer­sey wall of the bridge.”

The car was pro­pelled into the air where it landed strad­dling the bridge’s concrete wall. It bal­anced pre­car­i­ously there for a while be­fore tip­ping over into the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, sinking up­side down.

“Af­ter I stopped pan­ick­ing, a wave of calm­ness came over me, an an­gelic calm­ness,” Lake said. “I re­mem­ber tak­ing my seat­belt off, I re­mem­ber try­ing to vi­su­al­ize in my head where the win­dow was, and when I did that, I was able to grab the sides of the win­dow and pull my­self out, and use it to push off.”

Lake man­aged to es­cape her ve­hi­cle and swim for shore. Her dra­matic es­cape was cap­tured on video by a pass­ing mo­torist and made na­tional news.

Lake, 26, said it took some time be­fore she felt ready to com­plete her stud­ies in com­mu­ni­ca­tions at CSM.

“Af­ter that, I took a [two and a half year] break from school. I just had to,” Lake said.

Lake said she is trans­fer­ring to Bowie State Univer- sity with a con­cen­tra­tion in broad­cast jour­nal­ism.

“I’m so ex­cited to be grad­u­at­ing and con­tin­u­ing my stud­ies de­spite all that I’ve been through,” Lake said. “It doesn’t mat­ter when you start, what mat­ters is when you fin­ish, and I’m go­ing to keep go­ing to fol­low all my dreams de­spite what­ever has hap­pened to me in the past.”

Another grad­u­ate, Bet­tie-Phillips Jack­son of Wal­dorf, served 22 and a half years with the U.S. Army.

“But I al­ways wanted to have that col­lege ex­pe­ri­ence,” Jack­son said. “To be on a col­lege cam­pus, eat in the lunch­room, carry a back­pack, have study groups, all that stuff. I al­ways wanted that, but I never had that op­por­tu­nity, be­ing the daugh­ter of a share­crop­per, so I en­tered the mil­i­tary.”

Jack­son de­cided to en­roll at CSM and study hos­pi­tal­ity man­age­ment.

At 64, Jack­son was the old­est grad­u­ate to cross the stage Thurs­day night. Jack­son said at­tend­ing col­lege with class­mates younger than her chil­dren was in­tim­i­dat­ing at first.

“It was re­ally dif­fer­ent. They think dif­fer­ent, they act dif­fer­ent, they dress dif­fer­ent,” Jack­son said. “But I found that what I brought to

the ta­ble was de­ter­mi­na­tion, to show them how to do things. They had the youth, but I had the knowl­edge, the life ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Jack­son said she plans to con­tinue her ed­u­ca­tion, pur­su­ing a sec­ond as­so­ci­ate’s de­gree in crim­i­nal jus­tice.

Another grad­u­ate, Allen Tengco of Wal­dorf, was one of only four men amongst the 50 stu­dents who grad­u­ated from the col­lege’s nurs­ing pro­gram.

“This is the best ca­reer field I could have cho­sen — to help oth­ers with my in­ter­est in sci­ence, anatomy, phys­i­ol­ogy. If I want di­rect pa­tient con­tact, nurs­ing is the way to go,” said Tengco, a 2013 grad­u­ate of North Point High School.

Nurs­ing is one of the four big­gest ma­jors at CSM, along with busi­ness man­age­ment, arts and sciences and gen­eral stud­ies, but en­roll­ment gears heavily to­wards women. Tengco, how­ever, said be­ing out­num­bered was an as­set.

“It was nice be­ing sur­rounded by some of the nicest ladies on cam­pus,” Tengco said. “We be­came a very in­te­grated fam­ily, from be­gin­ning to end.”

Tengco, 21, was the re­cip­i­ent of the pres­ti­gious Achieve­ment in Nurs­ing Award, given by fac­ulty to a stu­dent who shows ex­cel­lence in clin­i­cal per­for­mance, aca­demics and com­mu­nity ser­vice.

“I could name prob­a­bly five peo­ple who I think de­served it more than me, but I’m very hum­bled to re­ceive this award,” Tengco said.

Tengco said he plans to at­tend the Univer­sity of Mary­land School of Nurs­ing, where he in­tends to con­tinue his grad­u­ate stud­ies and be­come a nurse prac­ti­tioner spe­cial­iz­ing in acute care.

Grad­u­at­ing is bit­ter­sweet, Tengco said.

“It made me a lit­tle sad, putting on the cap and gown, be­cause I’ve made such close re­la­tion­ships over the past few years, so it’s sad to sep­a­rate from all the peo­ple I’ve met,” Tengco said.

An­drew Hack­ney of Me­chan­icsville, the stu­dent speaker at grad­u­a­tion, made ex­ten­sive use of schol­ar­ships to pay for col­lege.

“I didn’t want to fin­ish col­lege ow­ing any debt, so I took the time to ap­ply for a lot of schol­ar­ships,” said Hack­ney, 21. “I got my first schol­ar­ships in high school, car­ried those to CSM, and I kept ap­ply­ing for more while I was at CSM. The only thing I paid out-of­pocket were text­book costs.”

The 2013 Chop­ti­con High School grad­u­ate said he did ex­ten­sive re­search into schol­ar­ships, and ap­plied for as many as he could.

A gen­eral stud­ies grad­u­ate, Hack­ney said at­tend­ing CSM for his first two years of col­lege was part of his over­all plan to avoid tak­ing on any stu­dent debt.

“I knew that the cost was cheaper [at CSM], so I didn’t want to start at a four-year univer­sity,” Hack­ney said.

Hack­ney said he is trans­fer­ring to the Univer­sity of Mary- land Bal­ti­more County where he plans to ma­jor in po­lit­i­cal sci­ence. He urged grad­u­at­ing high school and col­lege stu­dents to ap­ply for as many schol­ar­ships as pos­si­ble.

“I just hope that ev­ery­one ap­plies for lots of schol­ar­ships, be­cause I want ev­ery­one to try to grad­u­ate debt-free, but ob­vi­ously not ev­ery­one has that lux­ury, but I want ev­ery­one to be smart about how they go to col­lege,” Hack­ney said. “There are tons of schol­ar­ships out there; some of them you have to write es­says for, but some of them you just fill out your name and mark, ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘male’, ‘fe­male’. There are schol­ar­ships out there for every­body.”

Dur­ing the grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony, the col­lege also rec­og­nized for­mer Board of Trustees mem­ber James K. Ra­ley Jr. with emer­i­tus sta­tus, and Michael and Liz Chiara­monte and Mar­i­anne Harms with the Trustees’ Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Award.

Ad­junct Pro­fes­sor Denise Snee of the Lan­guages and Lit­er­a­ture Divi­sion was awarded the An­nual Fac­ulty Ex­cel­lence Award Hon­or­ing Ad­junct Fac­ulty.

Grad­u­a­tion speaker Roz Plater, Emmy Award-win­ning broad­cast jour­nal­ist and Calvert County na­tive, told grad­u­ates they are about to en­ter a new chap­ter in their life story and to pur­sue their dreams no mat­ter what roadblocks they en­counter.

“What I want for your story is I want you to have health, I want you to have hap­pi­ness, and I want you to find your pas­sion, and I want you to prom­ise me that you will some­times take a leap of faith, that you will work, and fight hard for your dreams, and that you will go out there and get your life,” Plater said.

STAFF PHO­TOS BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

A grad­u­at­ing stu­dent wears a dec­o­rated cap dur­ing the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land’s 18th An­nual Win­ter Com­mence­ment cer­e­monies Thurs­day.

Bet­tie-Phillips Jack­son of Wal­dorf helps Mor­gan Lake of Bowie fix her cap just prior to grad­u­a­tion cer­e­monies at the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land Thurs­day evening.

Broad­cast jour­nal­ist and Calvert County na­tive Roz Plater was the grad­u­a­tion speaker dur­ing the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land’s 18th An­nual Com­mence­ment cer­e­monies Thurs­day.

Fam­ily, friends and well-wish­ers line the bas­ket­ball bleach­ers in the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land’s gym­na­sium dur­ing the 18th An­nual Win­ter Com­mence­ment cer­e­monies Thurs­day.

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