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Chesapeake's Sterling speaks for state's community college students

Monday, February 18, 2008

ANNAPOLIS – Heather Sterling, 35, of Preston spoke on behalf of Maryland´s community college students to a gathering of legislators and students during the Student Advocacy Day on Feb. 13.

Sterling said her personal story is common in many small communities across the country.

"My family tradition was going to high school and getting a job. That was it, so that´s what I did," Sterling said. "I wasn´t a great student in high school and I never saw college as part of my future."

Sterling started working in retail right after her high school graduation, holding jobs at Wal-Mart and Peebles in Easton. She had been working in retail for 14 years, when her uncle started encouraging her to continue her education.

"My uncle had been in the military, had traveled a lot and pursued higher education. In fact, when he retired from the military, he went to Chesapeake and earned a nursing degree," Sterling said. "He said that I was closing doors on my future and he encouraged me to try college. I know that I wouldn´t be here now if he hadn´t encouraged me."

Sterling said she put aside her nerves and doubts, long enough to enroll at Chesapeake in the fall of 2004. A graduate of Colonel Richardson High School, Sterling said that she was relieved to find the college atmosphere different from the high school environment she remembered.

In such an environment, Sterling said she felt free to learn and grow. The supportive instructors at Chesapeake, she said, encouraged her and helped her see her own potential.

Now a Business Management major, Sterling is serving her third term as president of the Student Government Association. In her role as president, she has become both a campus leader and a visible representative of the college.

Amy Childs, Chesapeake´s director of student life, said Sterling has provided strong leadership to the college´s student body. "Heather has done all the right things – set high academic goals for herself, used the support services offered to our students and got involved in co-and extra-curricular activities. In addition to her current role as President of the SGA, Heather also participated as an Activities Ambassador and graduated from our Student Leadership Academy. Her academic achievements have also earned her membership in the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. I have great respect and admiration for all of Heather´s accomplishments and truly value all that she has brought to Chesapeake College."

Sterling plans to graduate in May and hopes to pursue a career in human resources. She would like to use her own experiences to encourage other working adults to get out of their personal and career "ruts´ through education.

"My community college experience has changed my whole outlook on life," Sterling told the group. "I now strive for better things for myself whereas before I always settled for whatever came my way. I´m also much more willing to challenge myself and be open to new experiences."

Chesapeake College had a large delegation at Student Advocacy Day, with its 30 students representing more than 10 percent of the total number of students present.

"We consider Student Advocacy Day one of the most important outreach efforts we conduct," said Dr. Richard Midcap, Chesapeake College´s vice president for student success and enrollment services. "It´s a wonderful opportunity for our students to personally interact with their legislators and learn more about the legislative process."

The student delegates, representing Maryland´s 16 community colleges, spent the first part of Wednesday morning together celebrating their common mission and listening to speakers, including Speaker of the House Michael Busch and Senator Jamie Raskin. Each college´s delegation then met with their individual legislators.

Chesapeake´s delegates were able to meet with Sen. Richard F. Colburn (R-37), Del. Richard A. Sossi (R-36), and Del. Adelaide C. Eckardt (R-37B).

Delegate Sossi said he enjoys the annual visits from the Chesapeake College delegation.

"I´m a big supporter of community colleges. You do a fantastic job with limited resources," said Delegate Sossi to Chesapeake College delegation.

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