A degree, then a diploma

June 03, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - Sara Padula isn't likely to have trouble remembering to turn her tassel when she picks up her diploma at North Hagerstown High School's graduation next week.

She's already had some practice.

Padula, 18, will graduate from high school nearly a month after picking up her associate's degree in psychology from Frederick Community College. If she could have, Padula said she would have gotten out of school even earlier.

"I've had senioritis since like second grade," Padula said.

Sandy Smith, associate vice president for enrollment management at FCC, said Padula never called attention to herself as she accumulated both high school and college credits.


"She's not been the kind of student who's stood up and crowed or talked about her own achievements," Smith said.

Smith said Padula has shown herself to be an "excellent student."

"It is very unique," Smith said. "I don't know that in the history of the college we have a student graduate simultaneously from high school - public high school - and community college," Smith said.

Padula sprinkled the conversation about her school career with self-effacing jokes and a little irreverent sarcasm as Maki, a cotton-white Bichon Frise, barked and bounced during an interview at Padula's mother's house in Maugansville.

"I'd like to be a bartender because they make good money, and they like, have no responsibilities," Padula said as she talked about her future plans.

She is considering attending the University of Maryland at Baltimore - she was unimpressed by the dorm rooms at the university system's College Park campus - and studying psychology.

"I always liked it ... just to know why, why people do those things. I don't know, I mean, I loved abnormal psychology, all those disorders and stuff," Padula said.

She is the daughter of Beth Miles and Joe Padula of Hagerstown. Her sister, Morgan, 14, and brother, Joe, 20, both live with their father, she said.

Because Miles is employed by the college, Padula was eligible to take courses there for free.

Unlike some Washington County high school students, who are able to take classes for both high school and college credit through Hagerstown Community College's ESSENCE Program, Padula said she had to take separate courses to satisfy her college and high school requirements.

Padula said she never was interested in taking the dual-enrolled courses offered at the high school through HCC. Instead, she was grateful to have the opportunity to experience a new environment.

"I'm like, 'O.K., you're sitting in high school, and you're taking these classes, and you're getting the (dual) credit.' I'm just like, 'Nooo, the whole point is to leave ...'"

She said she thinks moving away still will be a transition, but attending FCC has left one indelible impression: Padula already is sick of all-nighters.

"I have a real hard time getting started so, like, I'll say, 'I'll take a power nap, and then I'll get started,'" Padula said.

An employee of Pizza Hut, Padula said she is looking for a job where she can use her FCC degree. She might like to work for Brook Lane Health Services, she said.

Padula, who couldn't wait to leave school, already is anticipating a hefty dose of further studies.

"Hopefully, I'll be out of there in two (years), have my master's in another year or two, however long that takes, and do something, become a flight attendant and fly around the world or something random," Padula said. "Me and Maki, we'll fly the world."

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