Secretary Rai addresses Wor-Wic graduates

Salisbury Independent
Posted 5/10/24

During Wor-Wic Community College commencement ceremonies at the Wicomico Youth and...

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Secretary Rai addresses Wor-Wic graduates


SALISBURY — During Wor-Wic Community College commencement ceremonies at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center in Salisbury, Dr. Sanjay Rai, secretary of higher education for the Maryland Higher Education Commission, applauded the graduates for building momentum and moving forward to continue their education and careers.

“It is not lost on any of us in higher education about your inner strength: your strength to persevere in spite of challenging circumstances, your strength to dream and work towards building a reality, your strength to achieve your educational goals to be here today,” Rai said. “Many of you did not have a high school graduation ceremony due to COVID-19, yet over the past two years, you have overcome many barriers and obstacles.”

After the commencement address by Rai, Deborah Casey, Ph.D., president of Wor-Wic, presented him with a plaque on behalf of the 2024 graduating class.

Morgan Hazel, chairperson of Wor-Wic’s board of trustees, introduced the commencement speaker, members of the board of trustees and other guests on stage.

Dr. Bryan Newton, vice president for enrollment management and student services, introduced the student speaker, Melissa Ward of Salisbury. Ward overcame many obstacles, including a bad car accident, the loss of both a child and a spouse, and then single parenthood, on her way to earning her nursing degree.

“I never thought of myself as having grit,” she said. “I still remember the day when a favorite professor told me that what I was doing took grit, and then she added, ‘You, my dear, have that in spades.’

“I have experienced a lot of encouragement and support at Wor-Wic, and I’ve seen others encouraged by their professors, advisors, student services and staff members. The inspiration poured out by them fuels the grit inside us. This is what spurs us on to meet those deadlines and finish the course.”

Casey presented the 2023-2024 President’s Student Excellence Award, sponsored by the Wor-Wic Community College Foundation, to Lauren Bodolus of Berlin, who graduated with an associate of arts in general studies. Other nominees were Lorelei Michael Auker of Ocean City, Ryan Christoper Ellis of Salisbury, Alexandria L. Harkness of Ocean City, William Casey Matthews of Salisbury and Zoe Claire Zink of Fruitland.

The 2023-2024 President’s Distinguished Faculty Award, sponsored by the Wor-Wic Community College Foundation, was presented to Dr. Amy O’Neal-Self, professor of English, and Mari Strauss, instructor of radiologic technology.

Nursing was the most popular major among members of the graduating class, with 142 students receiving degrees or certificates. It was followed by general studies, with 110 graduates earning associate degrees in the major. Third most popular was criminal justice, in which 96 students earned certificates or degrees.

This year’s commencement also featured the first class of fire science technology graduates, including Jon Black of Salisbury, who had already served as a volunteer fire chief for decades, and was regional director for the Maryland Fire Chief Association. “I always wanted to have a degree in fire science, but the programs were all over the bridge,” Black said. “So when Wor-Wic offered the fire science technology degree, I knew I had to do it. I’m always looking to improve myself and firefighter health and safety.”

The majority of the graduates were from Salisbury or other parts of Wicomico County, followed by Worcester and then Somerset counties. Graduates were also from Dorchester, Caroline, Talbot and other counties in Maryland, as well as from nearby states.

In addition to the speakers, dignitaries included Diana Purnell of Berlin, Worcester County Commissioner member; John Cannon of Salisbury, president, and Jeff Merritt, member of the Wicomico County Council; and Sen. Mary Beth Carozza, R-38, of Ocean City. Board of trustees members Russell W. Blake of Pocomoke City, Andrew W. Booth, Kimberly C. Gillis and Martin T. Neat of Salisbury, Anna G. Newton of Berlin and Lorraine Purnell-Ayres of Snow Hill were in attendance, as well as foundation board members Thelma Orr and Kimberly Roemer of Salisbury. The Rev. Marilyn Searcy of Renovate Church gave the invocation and benediction.

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