2018 Wor-Wic graduates reminded of opportunities

During Wor-Wic Community College commencement ceremonies at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center, Judge Daniel M. Long shared stories, personal examples and lessons learned, and urged the graduates to make a difference.

Long told those assembled that “tonight is just the beginning of your education in life and you will come to realize, that is the real cause for celebration. You’ve been given the tools … to go anywhere and to do anything.”

Borrowing the passage, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” from “A Tale of Two Cites” by Charles Dickens, Long told the graduates that, with the tension between the U.S. and Russia, the opioid epidemic and extremist groups and individuals threatening the safety and security of our homes and schools, these are the worst of times.

“Yet, these are also the best of times,” Long added. Medical advances, technological progress and the economy make these exciting times. With unemployment being low and the stock market high, access to health care and educational opportunities here on the Lower Shore have never been greater, especially with free community college on the horizon, he said.

“This country of ours still provides opportunities in abundance for men and women of vision and imagination,” Long told the graduates. “You have been given the tools here at Wor-Wic to realize your hopes and dreams. With dedication, determination and the courage of your convictions, you have the ability to accomplish so very much. You only need remember the Wor-Wic message — you have started here, but now you can go anywhere. My message to you is that wherever you go, wherever life’s challenges lead you, strive to make a difference. You might not be able to change the entire world, but at least you can … change a small part of it and make a difference to someone.”

Long told the story of having blood drawn recently by a Wor-Wic graduate sitting in the audience listening to his speech — a mother of five who works two jobs while attending college. Long said she told him that she is teaching her children that you are never too old to learn or to attend college. She praised the flexible schedule and open doors at Wor-Wic that allowed her to achieve her goals and realize her dreams. “This is what Wor-Wic is all about. … This is a young woman who is about making a difference, not only to her family, but also to her community,” he said. Adding that while her story is special, he was sure there were many similar stories that so many in attendance could share as well.

Long concluded by telling the graduates to never stop learning. “Take pride in your achievement, but remember that with your achievement comes great responsibility. With great responsibility often comes great challenge, but with every challenge, there is always great opportunity, … an opportunity to make a difference.”

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 Long, Dr. Ray Hoy, college president, presented him with a plaque on behalf of the 2018 graduating class.

Bryan Newton, vice president for enrollment management and student services, introduced the student speaker, Victoria Fears of Salisbury, the youngest member of the graduating class, receiving her associate degree in general studies.

Addressing her fellow graduates, Fears shared her personal experiences of how Wor-Wic changed her life.

“When I first enrolled at Wor-Wic in the fall of 2016, my goal was simply to use one semester to learn what college was really all about, and then move on to another college,” Fears said. “I was a beneficiary of the Wicomico Economic Impact Scholarship. Over that first year, I began to realize what Wor-Wic had to offer — that it wasn’t just a start to college, but that it could also see me to the end of the first part of my educational journey. I found a supportive community and a way for me to go through my first two years of college education debt free, which has been an incredible blessing.” Fears went on to thank County Executive Bob Culver for proposing the scholarship initiative and the Wicomico County Council for approving it.

Fears told her classmates that, at Wor-Wic, they have had new experiences, met new people and formed new relationships. “Coming out of this journey, we are now better prepared to take on the world and all the exciting opportunities that are available to us,” she said. “The opportunities afforded to us here at Wor-Wic … have opened up the endless possibilities we have. We can now move on to a higher education, enter the workforce or be better equipped to do our jobs. Our potential really is limitless.”

She told those assembled that instead of focusing on what divided them, they were shown how to communicate with one another, learn together and work toward a common purpose. “I … have learned so much more than I would have if I had gone through college without being encouraged to interact with others,” Fears added. “It gave us the ability to see our differences not as obstacles, but as advantages — a way for us to learn and grow. … This will carry us through our lives and aid with all our relationships, and will help us connect and sympathize with others. And with this outlook, we can learn more than we ever thought we could have before.”

In conclusion, Fears said that “although this is a huge milestone in our lives, it’s not an end. Rather, it’s a beginning — a start to a new journey, full of surprises and adventures, just waiting for us to take the first step. Our experiences here at Wor-Wic have given us the tools that we need to succeed, but now it’s our responsibility to take what we have learned and use it to change the world, because it’s not going to change on its own. It’s our job, our destiny, to go out and make a difference.”

After graduating from Wor-Wic, Fears plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in communication arts at Salisbury University.

In addition to the distinction of being the youngest graduate, Fears graduated with a degree in general studies – 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, Karyn Webb of Salisbury, had a successful career in marketing, communications and project management in the U.S. and overseas, until she said she wanted a more fulfilling career. She decided to return to school to earn her nursing degree.

“Wor-Wic made sense to me since it had the reputation of providing a quality education at an affordable price,” Webb said. “And since this was a second career for me, affordability was a primary concern.”

Webb said it was difficult to return to college after more than 20 years, and she really had to turn her “academic brain” back on in order to focus on some very difficult subjects. She was also impacted by some personal tragedies while enrolled at Wor-Wic, and she said she relied on her faith to give her the strength to persevere through nursing school. She currently works as a student assistant in the resource centers on campus, while studying to take the Maryland Board of Nursing exam to obtain her RN license.

Other graduates received degrees or certificates in accounting, business, chemical dependency counseling, computer studies, criminal justice, education, electronics, emergency medical services, hotel-motel-restaurant management, occupational therapy assistant, office technology, physical therapist assistant, radiologic technology and science.

The majority of the graduates were from Salisbury or other parts of Wicomico County, followed by Worcester and then Somerset counties. Graduates were also from Dorchester, Caroline, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Talbot 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 including Russell W. Blake of Pocomoke City, vice chair, Andrew W. Booth, Kimberly C. Gillis and Morgan Hazel 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, president, and Larry Dodd, vice president, both of Salisbury; members of the Worcester County Commissioners, Diana Purnell of Berlin, president, and Bud Church of Ocean City. Other guests included Sen. James N. Mathias Jr., D-38, of Ocean City; Del. Carl Anderton Jr., R-38B, of Delmar, Md.; Del. Mary Beth Carozza, R-38C, of Ocean City; Del. Charles J. Otto, R-38A, of Princess Anne; Del. Johnny Mautz, R-37B, of St. Michaels; and Del. Sheree Sample-Hughes, D-37A, of Salisbury. The Rev. Dr. Baron N. Hopkins Sr. of St. James United Methodist Church in Westover, who received his associate degree in general studies from Wor-Wic in 2001, gave the invocation and benediction.

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