During Wor-Wic Community College commencement ceremonies at the Wicomico Youth and 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 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, Larry Dodd, vice president, both of Salisbury, and Joe Holloway of Parsonsburg; and Diana Purnell of Berlin, president of the Worcester County Commissioners. Other guests included Sen. Mary Beth Carozza, R-38, of Ocean City; Sen. Adelaide C. Eckardt, R-37, of Cambridge; Del. Chris Adams, R-37B, of Hebron; Del. Wayne Hartman, R-38C, of Ocean City; and Del. Sheree Sample-Hughes, D-37A, of Salisbury. The Rev. Sheneatta Whittington of Mt. Calvary United Methodist Church in Fruitland, who received her associate degree in chemical dependency counseling from Wor-Wic in 2005, gave the invocation and benediction.
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, Martin T. Neat of Salisbury, chairperson of the board of trustees at Wor-Wic; Dr. Ray Hoy of Salisbury, president of the college; Kelly M. Schulz, secretary of the Maryland Department of Commerce, who was the commencement speaker; Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver of Salisbury; Diana Purnell of Berlin, president of the Worcester County Commissioners; and John Cannon of Salisbury, president of the Wicomico County Council.
Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver congratulates Lt. Howard Drewer of the Salisbury Police Department who received his criminal justice degree at Wor-Wic Community College commencement exercises, as John Cannon, Wicomico County council president, Larry Dodd, council vice president, and Joe Holloway, council member, look on.
Del. Sheree Sample-Hughes, D-37A, of Salisbury, congratulates 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 Sample-Hughes, are Brooke Thomas of Parsonsburg, a physical therapist assistant graduate, Jasmine Goslee of Nanticoke, a business graduate, Cory Davis of Salisbury, a business graduate, and James Crumpler of Fruitland, a chemical dependency counseling graduate.
FROM OCEAN CITY.
Del. Wayne Hartman, R-38C, of Ocean City, congratulates 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 Hartman, are Lindsey Moore, a nursing graduate, Gavin Aquino, a radiologic technology graduate, Tiffany Hastings, an education graduate, and Ryan Jasinski, a general studies graduate.
FROM NORTHERN WORCESTER.
Diana Purnell of Berlin, president of the Worcester County Commissioners, congratulates some of the graduates from northern Worcester County who received their associate degrees at Wor-Wic Community College commencement exercises at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. From left, next to Purnell, are Brianna Bowen of Berlin, a general studies graduate, Jacqueline McGuire of Berlin, an occupational therapy assistant graduate, Tyler Tull of Whaleyville, a nursing graduate, and Mitchell Cooper of Bishopville, a computer studies graduate.
FROM SOUTHERN WORCESTER.
Russell W. Blake of Pocomoke City, vice chairman of the board of trustees at Wor-Wic Community College, congratulates some of the graduates from southern Worcester County who received their associate degrees at commencement exercises at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. From left, next to Blake, are April Powell of Snow Hill, an education graduate, Madison Parks of Pocomoke City, a radiologic technology graduate, Rachel Richardson of Girdletree, a physical therapist assistant graduate, and Mitchell Krystoflak of Pocomoke City, a general studies graduate.
Sen. Mary Beth Carozza, R-38, of Ocean City, at left, congratulates some of the graduates from Somerset County who received their associate degrees at Wor-Wic Community College commencement exercises at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. From left, next to Carozza, are Deshawn Carr of Princess Anne, a general studies graduate, Angela Whidbee of Crisfield, an education graduate, and Alison Shores of Dames Quarter, an education graduate.
UPPER SHORE GRADUATES.
Sen. Adelaide C. Eckardt, R-37, of Cambridge, and Del. Chris Adams, R-37B, of Hebron, congratulate some of the graduates from the Upper Shore who received their associate degrees at Wor-Wic Community College commencement exercises at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. From left, next to Adams, are Samantha Davis of Cambridge, a hotel-motel-restaurant management graduate, Darryl Luter of Federalsburg, a general studies graduate, and Shavonda Adams of Hurlock, a criminal justice graduate.
Graduates prepare to exit the ceremony after receiving their degrees at Wor-Wic Community College commencement exercises.
Graduates celebrate after the Wor-Wic Community College commencement exercises at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center.