USMH graduate shares her inspiring story with other achievers at ceremony
USMH Executive Director Mark Halsey, left, and Joann Boughman, right, senior vice chancellor for academic affairs, are brought to laughter Monday evening by graduating student Neil Wrona during a reception for graduates. Boughman and Wrona each gave remarks during the program. (By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer / May 20, 2013)
“I’ve had sleepless nights, tear-filled days and my finances stretched to the limit. I can honestly say that being finished now feels so good,” Wade said. “I’m the first in my family with my bachelor’s degree.”
The daughter of a single mother, Wade became a single mother shortly after graduating from high school, she confided to the audience in University Plaza where the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown on Monday held its annual graduation celebration to recognize students getting degrees from USM schools that offer classes in Hagerstown.
While raising her daughter, Naomi, now 8, Wade graduated from Hagerstown Community College with an associate degree in nursing. After that, she set out to earn her baccalaureate degree in nursing through Towson University at the downtown Hagerstown USMH campus, all the while working full time for the Department of Juvenile Services at the Alfred D. Noyes Children’s Center in Rockville, Md.
“When I was asked to speak this evening, I didn’t understand why. I thought maybe because my life was a little hard. ... I didn’t know that people noticed that I was a hard worker and they felt I was inspiring,” the Hagerstown resident said.
Wade was one of 207 students set to graduate from USMH, according to USMH spokeswoman Jamie Bushong.
Students, some of whom already received degrees and others who soon will, can attend an official graduation ceremony at their home universities, Bushong said.
The graduating students, comprising classes from summer and winter 2012, in addition to spring 2013, represent four universities — Frostburg State University, Salisbury University, Towson University and University of Maryland University College, Bushong said.
USMH offers 23 programs from six partner universities, according to Bushong.
This year marked the largest graduating class in USMH’s eight-year history, she said.
Hagerstown resident Neil Wrona, 26, also spoke before his graduating class.
Wrona, Washington County’s Volunteer of the Year, was one of seven males in the Master of Arts in teaching-elementary program through Frostburg State University.
Prior to graduating with a 3.84 grade-point average, Wrona embarked on a service-learning project, collaborating with Lead4Life to mentor a young male struggling in school and in life.
Wrona challenged his fellow graduates to set aside an hour each week for volunteer service.
“The real reason you do it is because it’s just such a wonderful, wonderful feeling to be out their helping, or at least trying to help,” Wrona said before detailing his experience with the young man.
Following the dinner at University Plaza, awards were handed out to some students before members of the 2012-13 graduating class were recognized.
Student Academic Achievement Award winners
The Student Academic Achievement Award was presented to outstanding graduates for their excellence in academics and contributions to their academic program of study.