During commencement ceremonies for Wor-Wic Community College held Wednesday at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center, Dr. Peggy Naleppa, president and CEO of Peninsula Regional Medical Center and the Peninsula Regional Health System, shared stories, personal examples and lessons learned, and urged the graduates to keep learning from each other.
Naleppa told those assembled that “we live in a world of great uncertainty and mistrust,” with challenges in every direction and rapid and dramatic change, due in part to the Internet and social media. She asked the graduates, “how will you stay grounded in a world of great uncertainty?”
Naleppa used the analogy of a large oak tree to illustrate her message.
She told the graduates that uncertainty and mistrust can come from spending “too much time on the showy stuff above the ground” – the foliage – rather than what is below the surface – the roots. She explained that the root system “represents what’s inside: your emotions, experiences, beliefs (and) values that define who you are” and that the root system needs to be nurtured and strengthened.
Naleppa advised the graduates that their inner spirit or core holds their values, the roots that ground their character. “Your character and roots will wilt and die if they are composed of self – what’s in it for me and self-serving behavior,” she said. “When you are able to focus on the inner self – of who you are – you are better able to align your emotions and your thoughts with decisions that support positive actions.”
She gave several examples of the good character of others and of personal obstacles that she and others have overcome, urging the graduates to be great examples of a strong root system and to leave a lasting impression on others. “Don’t let the challenges of life turn you into a victim,” she said. “A victim mentality will only sour your roots and prevent growth.”
Naleppa told the graduates that it’s okay if they haven’t yet found their passion. “The key is to keep moving forward and seizing the next opportunity.” She stressed that following their curiosity will take them down the right path. “Everything happens at the right time, at the right place and with the right people,” she explained. “Follow those connections, your pathway, and you may find your passion.”
Naleppa concluded by reminding the graduates to always give thanks to those who touch their lives and stand by them. “Always remember it starts with the heart, not the brainpower. Continue to strengthen and nurture these roots as they will keep you firmly grounded.”
Martin T. Neat of Salisbury, chairperson of Wor-Wic’s board of trustees, introduced the commencement speaker, members of the board of trustees and other guests on stage. After the commencement address by Naleppa, Dr. Ray Hoy, college president, presented her with a plaque on behalf of the 2016 graduating class.
Bryan Newton, vice president for enrollment management and student services, introduced the student speaker, Abigail Nibblett of Eden, the youngest member of the graduating class, who is receiving her associate degree in general studies.
Addressing the Class of 2016, Nibblett shared her personal experiences of how Wor-Wic changed her life.
“My story at Wor-Wic began when I came as a 16-year-old … student, excited by the opportunity to study with professors and learn in a unique and diverse setting,” Nibblett said. “After I decided to test for my GED early in my senior year of high school, I attended full time. A year later, I am departing Wor-Wic as an 18-year-old honors student and member of Phi Theta Kappa.”
Nibblett told her fellow graduates that Wor-Wic equipped her with the tools she needed to become a successful student and member of the workforce. Professors at Wor-Wic encouraged her to think critically and pushed her beyond what she thought she could do. “They … have our best interests at heart, and are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that we succeed. … They expect us to continuously learn and develop ourselves, which is a crucial life lesson we will take with us as we graduate today,” she said.
Nibblett told her classmates that they learned more from each class than they realized, including “dedication to bettering ourselves educationally, harnessing creativity, focusing on what is important and working hard to achieve our goals.”
In conclusion, Nibblett said, “While I expected to leave Wor-Wic with an academic education, I underestimated the equal benefits of connection to committed people, whether it be professors, students or staff. It is with an enormous amount of gratitude that I thank everyone at Wor-Wic for the amazing experience I had here.”
After graduating from Wor-Wic, Nibblett plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in English, and communication and digital studies, at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va.
In addition to the distinction of being the youngest graduate, Nibblett’s major – general studies – is this year’s most popular major. Following general studies, nursing was the second most popular major.
One of the graduates receiving an associate degree in nursing, Michele Kerns of Hebron, studied nursing assisting through the career and technology program while in high school. She chose Wor-Wic to continue her studies in the nursing field. Kerns recently received the Greater Salisbury Committee’s leadership award — a $1,000 scholarship, for her volunteer work in the community and on campus as the president of the Nursing Student Organization. The scholarship will come in handy for Kerns, who has no family in the area and is putting herself through college. While attending classes full time, she has been helping to fund her education by working as a server at the Old Mill Crab House in Delmar, Del. She just accepted a position as a registered nurse at the Peninsula Regional Medical Center, and plans to work both jobs while pursuing an online bachelor’s degree through the Chamberlain College of Nursing.
Other graduates received degrees or certificates in accounting, business, chemical dependency counseling, computer studies, criminal justice, education, electronics, emergency medical services, environmental science, hotel-motel-restaurant management, occupational therapy assistant, office technology, radiologic technology and science.
The majority of the graduates were from Salisbury or other parts of Wicomico County, followed by Worcester and Somerset counties. Graduates were also from Dorchester, Caroline, Talbot, Kent and other counties in Maryland, as well as from nearby states.
In addition to the speakers, dignitaries included other members of the college’s board of trustees, William H. Kerbin, vice chair, and Russell W. Blake of Pocomoke City, D. Gary Boggs and Andrew W. Booth of Salisbury, and Lorraine Purnell-Ayres of Snow Hill; Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver of Salisbury; and members of the Wicomico County Council, John Cannon of Salisbury, president, Larry Dodd, John Hall and Marc Kilmer, all of Salisbury; members of the Worcester County Commissioners, Merrill Lockfaw Jr. of Pocomoke City, vice president, and Chip Bertino and Diana Purnell of Berlin. Other guests included Sen. James N. Mathias Jr., D-38, of Ocean City; Del. Adelaide C. Eckardt, R-37B, of Cambridge; Del. Chris Adams, R-37B, of Hebron; Del. Johnny Mautz, R-37B, of St. Michaels, and Del. Charles J. Otto, R-38A, of Princess Anne. Rev. Joshua Messick of St. Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church in Pocomoke City gave the invocation and benediction.