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HCC awards degrees

May 16, 2004|By WANDA T. WILLIAMS

Hagerstown Community College awarded 354 degrees and certificates at the college's 57th annual commencement Saturday morning.

HCC President Guy Altieri saluted about 200 of the 354 graduates before a packed crowd of more than 2,000 family members and friends during ceremonies at HCC's Athletic Recreation and Community Center. Dressed in black robes, graduates beamed with smiles and some tears as family members offered cheers and loving hugs.

The air was filled with excitement.

There were too many proud moments to count, but HCC graduate Sarah Marie Keely was one of the first graduates recognized by Altieri for her historic achievement.

Keely, 16, of Hagerstown was honored as the youngest graduate in HCC's history.

"She's officially the youngest graduate in the 57-year history of the college," Altieri said.

She received an associate's degree in mathematics with a 4.0 grade-point average in December at the age of 15, Keely said.

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"It's been a wonderful experience. I'm going to Hood College in the fall to major in math," said Keely, who was home-schooled.

At the request of faculty, an honorary degree was presented to Todd E. Witmer, 38, who died in March before completing his studies. Several members of Witmer's family attended Saturday's ceremony in his memory and accepted his degree.

Like all college graduations, it's a time when graduates reflect on their struggles to obtain an education.

Graduates including Ellen Hudson and Ernest Terell Kittelberger overcame huge challenges to earn their diplomas.

Hudson, 43, a single mother, returned to school at the age of 38. It took her four years to complete her two-year degree in nursing, she said. Hudson graduated with honors and provided Saturday's graduate remarks as president of Phi Theta Kappa, the school's academic honor organization.

Kittelberger, 22, of Rochester, N.Y., was recognized for overcoming a learning disability and providing leadership as a member of HCC's men's basketball team. In two weeks, Kittelberger said he'll accept a basketball scholarship offer from a college in either Connecticut or Georgia.

Maria N. Carvajal, 24, of El Salvador also juggled a family to receive her LPN certificate in nursing.

"I feel I cannot explain the joy inside. I feel so happy," said Carvajal, who had family members travel from as far away as Mexico to attend Saturday's graduation. Carvajal plans on continuing her education at HCC.

Norris William Roy II, 22, of Washington, D.C., said his degree signified his struggle to move on with his life following the death of his father.

"It just feels good to move on and keep my goals," he said. "I want to succeed in my life."

In closing, Altieri told graduates "in the final analysis, it's your moral compass that accounts far more than anything else," as parting words of advice emphasizing the importance of good character over material gains.

Nursing was the most popular curriculum for two-year degree programs. In the transfer program, general studies and business administration were the largest concentrations, with a significant increase in the mechanical engineering technician program.

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