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14-year-old among 400 graduates at HCC

May 19, 2007|By DAN DEARTH

Diana Keely was 12 years old when she enrolled at Hagerstown Community College.

Two years later and a month shy of her 15th birthday, Diana graduated on Saturday sporting a 4.0 grade-point average and an associate degree in history, making her the youngest graduate since HCC opened six decades ago.

"I'll be staying at HCC and taking Internet classes at the University of Maryland (in Hagerstown)," she said. "I have a dream of becoming an international lawyer. It's just a dream, though."

But first, Diana said she has to get her driver's license so she can attend Hood College in Frederick, Md., to earn a bachelor's degree in math.

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Diana said she was home-schooled in Hagerstown by her parents, Bill and Jeannie.

Bill, a Defense Department employee, said the curriculum at the Keely household includes trigonometry, English, history and geography.

His daughter, Sarah, 19, also was home-schooled and just finished her first year of graduate school, he said.

"We don't try to (teach) them based on their age," Bill Keely said. "We sort of give them free reign."

HCC President Guy Altieri asked Diana to stand as he read a list of her accomplishments during commencement.

He recognized her for academic achievement, and another graduate for serving in the military.

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Nathan Steelman took leave from his service in Iraq to graduate with the class of 2007.

When Altieri thanked Steelman for serving, the crowd responded with thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

Altieri said about 385 students graduated Saturday in one of the largest commencement ceremonies in HCC history.

"This is really when we mine our gold ... When our best students launch off into careers and further education," he said.

Before the ceremony, the graduates-to-be slowly shuffled into the lobby of the HCC Athletic, Recreation and Community Center.

Some were busy slipping into their gowns as proud parents took pictures.

Volunteers were busy setting out cookies and punch for a post-commencement reception.

Richard Butler, a psychology major, said he planned to use his associate degree to further his education to become an ordained minister.

"This is just the first step," he said. "Everything I've learned here has been a blessing."

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