CSM Candidates for Graduation May 10 Range in Age from 15 to 64

The College of Southern Maryland (CSM) will recognize 508 candidates for graduation to receive 770 degrees and certificates during its 53rd Spring Commencement on May 10 at the La Plata Campus.

            CSM will award 531 associate degrees and 239 certificates: 41 percent of the students receiving awards are from Charles County, 34 percent are from St. Mary’s County and 22 percent are from Calvert County while 3 percent are from outside of the region.

Associate degrees will be awarded predominantly in the fields of general studies, nursing, arts and sciences and business administration, while general studies: transfer, general studies accounting: advanced and basic are the most predominant certificates. Of the graduates, 70 percent are female. The ages of this spring’s associate’s degree candidates range from 15 to 58. The oldest certificate candidate for graduation is 64.

The youngest candidate for graduation is Joseph M. Wolski, 15, of Dunkirk, who will earn an associate’s degree in engineering. Wolski began taking classes at CSM just a few weeks before his 14th birthday. He was homeschooled and completed high school following his first semester at CSM. “I was a little nervous because I was not used to public school—it was very new to me,” he said. “Everyone was at least five years older than me, but I guess they assumed that I was older than 13.”

It didn’t take long for him to settle into his classes and begin relating to his classmates, he said.

Wolski is transferring to complete a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering through a partnership between CSM, the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center (SMHEC), the University of Maryland College Park (UMD) and the Navy. The program includes a paid internship opportunity at Patuxent River Naval Base that Wolski will be eligible to participate in next year,” he said.

At last spring’s commencement, Wolski’s older sister Olivia was CSM’s youngest graduate. Younger brother Stephen, 13, just completed his first year at CSM.

The most senior candidate for an associate’s degree is Jean Campbell, 58, of St. Mary’s City who will receive an associate’s degree in nursing.

When her youngest of six children was in high school, Campbell made the decision to fulfill her dream of becoming a nurse. Previously, she had earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Texas A&I University and completed math classes at CSM to prepare for graduate work in secondary mathematics before completing a master’s degree in teaching through the College of Notre Dame Maryland.

Campbell was admitted into CSM’s 2009 nursing class. “I’m more of a solitary student, but I’m also someone who likes to spread my papers out all over the kitchen table and counter when I’m working,” Campbell said, adding that her children will be happy to reclaim the kitchen now that her nursing studies are completed. Through personal perseverance and encouragement from family as well as CSM nursing professors Rose Miller and Jan Bonham, Assistant Professor Chris Heilmeier and Adjunct Faculty Instructor Angela Callander she can now add the nursing associate’s degree to her academic accomplishments.

Along with husband and children, Campbell will celebrate her achievement with another important friend and supporter, Janice Jacobs, the most senior graduate from CSM’s spring 2011 Commencement Ceremony who also had received an associate’s degree in nursing. “I found another person in class who had gray hair and sat next to her—we have been friends ever since,” Campbell said.

Following graduation, Campbell and her husband of 30 years are planning a celebratory trip to Alaska. “I will begin seriously looking for a job after we get back,” said Campbell, who is interested in specializing in obstetrics or gerontology after putting in some time working in a hospital.

The most senior certificate candidate for graduation is Diane Edmonds-Vitashoka, 64, of La Plata who will receive certificates in human services: mental health technician and human services: alcohol and drug counseling. “I want people to know that whatever obstacles you face, no matter how old you are, you can reach your goals,” Edmonds-Vitashoka said. “As long as you let people hold you down [by being negative], you will stay down,” she said, adding that she has learned after many years not to listen to people who told her “You can’t do that.”

Edmonds-Vitashoka said that her academic journey began when a therapist asked her, “If you could do anything, what would it be?”

“I said that I wanted to be in her chair doing what she was doing,” Edmonds-Vitashoka said. She credits CSM Career Services Administrative Assistant Tracy Sewell and Academic/Transfer Advisor Valerie Kirchman with helping her plan her schedule and locate grants to help her pay for tuition, and instructor Janice McCue with helping her gain confidence in mastering mathematics courses. “I had so many people at CSM helping me, encouraging me and making sure that I didn’t give up, and it is by the grace of God that I was able to do this,” she said.

“My friends and family are not taking this lightly,” she said of her graduation and the party that is planned for afterward.

Edmonds-Vitashoka said that she connects with a quote by e.e. cummings, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” After taking a semester to pursue job opportunities, Edmonds-Vitashoka plans to continue working toward her associate’s degree.

For information on CSM’s spring graduation and associated activities, visit www.csmd.edu/commencement.