Wor-Wic grads told: ‘Only you can define you’

During Wor-Wic Community College commencement ceremonies at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center, Maryland Department of Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz shared stories, personal examples and lessons learned, and urged the graduates to be the ones who define themselves.

Schulz told those assembled that she was going to talk to them about three things – power, fear and confidence.

“These are ideas that will crop up again and again throughout your lives and throughout your careers. And you have to know how to think about them. So I want to tell you how I’ve come to think about them. Because you and I have a lot in common.”

She told the graduates that they should be proud of what they have accomplished and that “By choosing to come here and earn your degrees, you have given yourselves power. The choice was yours. You did that. You do not have to be what other people say you are. Your limitations don’t need to be the ones that other people try to impose upon you.

“At the Department of Commerce, we’re in the business of economic development, which means that we work with all kinds and all sizes of businesses to help them grow and help them create new jobs. That means we hear a lot about what companies across Maryland need, and what they’re looking for. Here’s what I can tell you. In Maryland — and everywhere else across the country — educated, qualified employees are in high demand,” she said.

Schulz told the crowd that employers need good, smart people – people with degrees and certificates – and that the supply is low and the competition is fierce. “All of this is … good for you because you have made yourselves competitive by coming here and completing a program. Now you have something employers need. That’s what I meant when I said you’ve given yourselves power.”  

Schulz explained that she had once been in their shoes. She was already a mother when she went back to school to get an associate degree at a community college in Rochester, N.Y., and her two sons were in high school when she decided to get her bachelor’s degree in political science a few years later.

“That wasn’t easy. I didn’t really fit in,” she said. Schulz said she was older than many of her classmates and she became known as “soccer mom.” She said she felt intimidated. “Whether they meant to or not, they were placing a limitation on me. They were telling me what I was. But I didn’t let it discourage me. I knew there was more that I could do. There was more that I could learn. And there was more that I could give.” Schulz said she didn’t let fear define her because she knew that she had power. She’d already earned her associate degree and that gave her confidence.

She concluded her remarks by saying, “Don’t let anyone else define who you are and what you can do. … Only you can define you.”

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 Schulz, Dr. Ray Hoy, college president, presented her with a plaque on behalf of the 2019 graduating class.

Bryan Newton, vice president for enrollment management and student services, introduced the student speaker, Samantha Davis, who was receiving her associate degree in hotel-motel-restaurant management with a concentration in culinary arts.

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

“If my parents had listened to doctors and therapists 20 years ago, I would not be standing here in front of you today giving this speech. At that time, it was suggested that I be placed in a special school because I was diagnosed with autism,” Davis said, adding that her future at that time was not so bright.

“However, I had parents who believed in me,” she added. “I had teachers and therapists who saw my abilities and not my disabilities. I was always held to a high standard and was expected to meet those standards. The results? Today, I am a graduate of Wor-Wic Community College.”

Davis told the crowd that she was sharing her story “because we all have our own backstory that brings us here” and that, despite any struggles she and other students faced, they have all worked hard every day knowing that this accomplishment they are celebrating is a big deal, and so worth the fight.

Davis told the graduates that there were many people to thank. “We thank our professors and counselors who have taught and guided us along the way. We also thank the dedicated hard workers in housekeeping for clean classrooms, security guards who kept us safe, cafeteria workers who fed us well, the business office who helped with our accounts and the financial aid office that helped us find scholarships.”

She told those assembled that there were many opportunities at Wor-Wic. “Social clubs gave us a chance to relax and meet fellow students. Academic clubs provided us ways to meet others who were on the same career path. There is even day care provided for those students who needed help with child care.” She then added, “Wor-Wic is an academic institution that strives to give their students a positive learning environment for which we are grateful. And that caring environment has led us here today.”

In conclusion, Davis told the graduates, “Embrace yourself for who you are, speak up for yourself and fight for what you believe is right for you. Even though we are now leaving school and entering the real world, we still have a lot of challenges ahead.” She then left the crowd with one of her favorite quotes: “Hard things are put in our way, not to stop us, but to call out our courage and strength.”

After graduating from Wor-Wic, Davis plans to gain some work experience and open her own bakery in the future.

General studies was the most popular major among members of the graduating class. One of the general studies program graduates, Mallory Dryden of Marion Station, originally wanted to go away to a big university, but when she qualified for the Somerset Economic Impact Scholarship, she said it was a “no brainer to come to Wor-Wic. Once I was enrolled, I fell in love with the campus.”

A dean’s list student, Dryden was also in the honors program and said she enjoyed the small classes with people who really cared. As vice president of communications for Wor-Wic’s Alpha Nu Omicron chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa international honor society, Dryden plans to transfer to Salisbury University and major in communication arts with a concentration in media while minoring in marketing and English. Her career goal is to work in promotions and digital advertising on the Lower Shore.

Following general studies, criminal justice was the second most popular major. One of the graduates receiving an associate degree in criminal justice, Lt. Howard Drewer of the Salisbury Police Department graduated from Wor-Wic’s Eastern Shore Criminal Justice Academy in 1998. Soon after, he enrolled in credit classes to earn his associate degree. Due to military service and other events in his life, he put his degree on hold. When his daughter began college in 2017, he decided it was time to return and finish his degree.

Drewer said he was nervous about returning because he hadn’t been in school in so many years. “The faculty and staff at Wor-Wic and their commitment to excellence inspired me to do more than pass, but to succeed,” he explained. “They went the extra mile, ensuring that my work was not just ‘okay,’ but was exceptional. They took the time to encourage me when I felt overwhelmed by a subject, and understood my concerns of attending college later in my life.” Graduating with high honors, he is already working on his bachelor’s degree at Wilmington University. He plans to move on to a master’s degree program after that.

Other graduates received degrees or certificates in accounting, biology, business, chemical dependency counseling, computer studies, construction engineering technology, education, emergency medical services, hotel-motel-restaurant management, manufacturing, nursing, 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 Somerset counties.

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