Whitlow Addresses Wor-Wic Graduates
May 14, 2009

During commencement ceremonies for Wor-Wic Community College at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center, H. Clay Whitlow, executive director of the Maryland Association of Community Colleges in Annapolis, gave the graduates three observations about careers, priorities and helping others.

“First, follow your heart in choosing a career and the rest will take care of itself,” Whitlow began. “Work should be about your heart, not your head.”

Whitlow told the graduates that they should choose work that they love and are passionate about because “it’s very sad to spend all that time unhappy and unfulfilled.” He explained that people do not always believe they have a choice when it comes to careers, but they always do.

“Life is about your priorities” was Whitlow’s second observation. He reflected on the cultural norm to be busy all the time and how the expression, “I don’t have time,” has become so common. Whitlow reminded the graduates that the choice of how we use our time is up to us.

“When we get older, we yearn to be younger. We lose our health trying to make money and advance, then spend our money trying to restore our health,” Whitlow said. “By thinking anxiously about the future, we forget the present, such that we live neither for the present nor the future. Things are moving so fast, if you don’t stop to examine your priorities…you run the risk of being a spectator at your own life.”

Whitlow’s third point to the graduates was to “be a bridge builder.” He said, “now that you have achieved one of your goals, remember to reach back for someone else.

“None of us achieves anything worthwhile without help along the way,” Whitlow added. “I urge you not to forget to reach back and build a bridge to help someone else get across.”

Whitlow concluded his remarks by telling the graduates that “money comes and goes. Good fortune is sometimes followed by misfortune. But, what you learn, what is in your head and in your heart, can never be taken away.”

Robert M. Lawrence, 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 Whitlow, Dr. Ray Hoy, college president, presented him with a plaque on behalf of the 2009 graduating class.

Dr. Stephen L. Capelli, vice president for academic and student affairs, introduced the student speaker, Allison Pilat of Berlin, an honors graduate with a 4.0 grade point average who received associate degrees in general studies and secondary education. Pilat was president of Wor-Wic’s Alpha Nu Omicron chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, and is a member of the Future Educators of America and the Arts Club.

Pilat served on the Student Advisory Council (SAC) of the Maryland Higher Education Commission and was the SAC's chairperson of two-year colleges. She was recently recognized as a distinguished teacher candidate honoree by the Maryland Association of Teacher Educators and as a distinguished chapter president at the international PTK convention. She was also recently named to the first All-Maryland Academic Team sponsored by PTK. Pilat volunteers with Junior Achievement, the Eastern Shore Reading Council and after-school programs at local high schools.

Addressing her fellow members of the Class of 2009, Pilat reflected on her experiences as a student and took time to thank fellow students, family and friends, as well as the administrators, faculty and staff at Wor-Wic.

“Arriving from many varied and winding paths, we have all somehow met here at these crossroads, in the halls of Wor-Wic Community College,” she said. “Many of us have come quite far from where we thought we would be.

“This school and these people have changed my life,” Pilat continued. “I have achieved because of them.”

In thanking administrators, Pilat said they had “cultivated a magnificent school and I am proud to be graduating from this community college.”

She thanked faculty and staff because they “imparted wisdom unto us, helped us learn, opened doors for us and served as mentors.”

As she thanked family and friends, she said, “You support us, inspire us, listen to us complain and still love us.”

To her fellow students, Pilat expressed appreciation for the inspiration they have shared. “We inspire each other….We learn from each other....We have studied together, supported each other and pushed each other,” she said.

Pilat plans to major in education at Salisbury University (SU) and pursue a career in teaching at the secondary or postsecondary level.

General studies was the most popular major among members of the graduating class, followed closely by nursing. Jeff Steele of Salisbury, 27, received his associate of science degree in nursing with a 3.5 grade point average.

After attending a four-year university in Ohio for two years, Steele came to the harsh reality that he couldn't manage the cost of college on his own. He dropped out of college, lost his housing and spent the next few months struggling to pick himself up. Working as a personal assistant in a restaurant, Steele spent the next year trying to save up enough money to go back to college. It became too difficult to make ends meet and save for college, so Steele enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. After completing four years in the military, he found himself right back in the same situation.

When he enrolled at Wor-Wic, Steele said he found "the faculty and staff were quick to respond to my needs..., learn who I was..., [and] help me establish where I wanted to go."

The financial aid office helped him learn how to use his military benefits to pay for college.

"Wor-Wic has not only given me an education that I can afford, it has made me a better person all around," Steele said. "The people of my community college have helped me gain back the dignity I lost after my first attempt at a college education."

Steele will begin working at Peninsula Regional Medical Center this month. This fall, he plans to begin his master's in clinical education at SU.

Two years ago, Wor-Wic introduced new culinary arts and forensic science program options. This year, the first two graduates received their degrees.

Wor-Wic's first culinary arts graduate, Chelsea Grimm of Berlin, 18, is also the youngest graduate this year. After being homeschooled for 10 years and attending private school, Grimm graduated from high school at the age of 16. Unsure of what she wanted to do in life and too apprehensive to go immediately to a four-year college, Grimm enrolled at Wor-Wic.

Grimm said she feels prepared to work in the real world because of the hands-on cooking experience she received in the commercial kitchen laboratory at Wor-Wic. According to Grimm, she also learned more about customer relations through her field experience, like how to please people and still make a profit.

She said Wor-Wic gave her direction and guidance and prepared her for the four-year college experience. Grimm earned her associate of applied science degree with a 3.3 grade point average, and she plans to transfer to SU to major in education. She wants to meld her love of cooking with teaching middle or high school students.

Kelly Griffin of Salisbury, 31, is Wor-Wic's first forensic science graduate. Griffin said she excels in math and science because she has always wanted to know how things work and why. Griffin came to Wor-Wic to sign up for two classes she needed to transfer back to the four-year university she was attending at the time. She was excited to learn that it was the first semester of Wor-Wic's new forensic science program.

“I signed up right away,” Griffin said. “I put my bachelor's degree on hold so I could learn all the cool stuff behind crime scene investigation.”

Griffin earned her associate of applied science degree in forensic science at Wor-Wic with a 3.8 grade point average.

This summer, she will intern with the aeronautics division at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. In the fall, she plans to attend SU to complete her bachelor's degree in physics with a minor in chemistry and a concentration in pre-medicine.

Other graduates received degrees or certificates in accounting, business, chemical dependency counseling, computer studies, construction engineering technology, criminal justice, education, electronics, emergency medical services, hotel-motel-restaurant management, manufacturing, office technology, radiologic technology or science transfer.

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, Queen Anne’s and other counties in Maryland, as well as from nearby states.

In addition to the speakers, dignitaries seated on stage included members of the college's board of trustees, Andrew W. Booth, vice chairperson, D. Gary Boggs and Morgan Hazel, all of Salisbury, Russell W. Blake and William H. Kerbin of Pocomoke City, and Velda E. Henry of Berlin; Wicomico County Executive Richard M. Pollitt Jr. of Allen; members of the Wicomico County Council, John T. Cannon, president, William R. McCain, vice president, Gail M. Bartkovich, David MacLeod and Sheree Sample-Hughes, all of Salisbury, and Joe Holloway of Parsonsburg; and members of the Worcester County Commissioners, Louise L. Gulyas, president, Judy Boggs and James L. Purnell of Berlin, and Virgil L. Shockley of Snow Hill. Other special guests on stage were Sen. Richard F. Colburn, R-37, of Cambridge; Del. Norman H. Conway, D-38B, of Salisbury; Del. Adelaide C. Eckardt, R-37B, of Cambridge; and Del. Jim Mathias, D-38B, of Ocean City. Reverend Sally B. Dolch, pastor at St. Andrews United Methodist Church in Salisbury, gave the invocation and benediction.

FROM SOUTHERN WORCESTER. Virgil L. Shockley of Snow Hill, left, a member of the Worcester County Commissioners, congratulates some of the graduates from southern Worcester County at commencement exercises at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. From left, next to Shockley, are Jennifer Sirman of Newark, a nursing graduate, and James Aswell of Pocomoke City, a computer studies graduate.

FROM OCEAN CITY. Del. Jim Mathias, D-38B, left, and Louise L. Gulyas, second from left, president of the Worcester County Commissioners, both of Ocean City, congratulate some of the graduates from Ocean City who received their associate degrees at Wor-Wic Community College commencement exercises at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. From left, next to Gulyas, are Alesia Kazakevich, a nursing graduate, and Mekedim Mulat, a general studies graduate.

FROM BERLIN. James L. Purnell Jr., left, and Judy Boggs, second from left, members of the Worcester County Commissioners from Berlin, congratulate some of the graduates who received their associate degrees at Wor-Wic Community College commencement exercises at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. From left, next to Boggs, are Allison Pilat, a general studies graduate, Chelsea Grimm, Wor-Wic’s first culinary arts graduate, and Christopher Keenan, a business graduate, all of Berlin.

SOMERSET GRADUATES. Timothy R. Sherman, left, dean of occupational education at Wor-Wic Community College, congratulates some of the graduates from Somerset County who received their associate degrees at commencement exercises at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. From left, next to Sherman, are Denise Schenck of Deal Island, a nursing graduate, Cranston Cox of Crisfield, a business graduate, and Aaron Rohrer of Princess Anne, who majored in radiologic technology.

WICOMICO GRADUATES. Del. Norman H. Conway, D-38B, of Salisbury, congratulates some of the graduates from Wicomico County who received their associate degrees at Wor-Wic Community College commencement exercises at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. From left, next to Conway, are Jeff Steele of Salisbury, who received his degree in nursing, Kelly Griffin of Salisbury, the college’s first forensic science graduate, Ja’Nelle Brown of Delmar, Md., an office technology graduate, and Suzette Davis of Mardela Springs, who majored in general studies.

FROM THE UPPER SHORE. Sen. Richard F. Colburn, R-37, and Del. Adelaide C. Eckardt, R-37B, center, both of Cambridge, congratulate Lori Jester of Preston, an emergency medical services graduate, at Wor-Wic Community College commencement exercises at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center.

ON STAGE. Some of the officials seated on stage for Wor-Wic Community College commencement exercises at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center are shown, from left, Robert M. Lawrence of Salisbury, chairperson of the board of trustees at Wor-Wic; Dr. Ray Hoy of Salisbury, president of the college; H. Clay Whitlow, executive director of the Maryland Association for Community Colleges, who was the commencement speaker, Louise L. Gulyas of Ocean City, president of the Worcester County Commissioners, John T. Cannon of Salisbury, president of the Wicomico County Council, and Richard M. Pollitt Jr. of Allen, Wicomico County executive.

WICOMICO COUNCIL. Wicomico County officials attended Wor-Wic Community College commencement exercises at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. Shown in the front row from left, are John T. Cannon, president of the Wicomico County Council, Richard M. Pollitt Jr., Wicomico County Executive, and William R. McCain, vice president of the council. Shown in the back row, from left, are council members Gail M. Bartkovich and Joe Holloway, Allison Pilat, a general studies graduate and student speaker, and council members David MacLeod and Sheree Sample-Hughes.