Focus on Students
Graduate Meets Challenges, Earns Top Honor

Hailey Morgan Receives the 2013 John T. Harrison Award, Chesapeake’s Top Graduate Honor

Posted on Wednesday, May 22, 2013


WYE MILLS – Like many college students, Hailey Morgan loses focus during long lectures and has trouble tackling subjects that do not pique her interest. Diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder six years ago, Morgan learned to manage her condition, and on Wednesday will graduate from Chesapeake College while receiving the college’s most prestigious commencement honor.

Morgan, 44, will receive the 2013 John T. Harrison Award, Chesapeake’s top graduate honor for both academics and service. The outstanding graduate said Chesapeake provided her with an environment to be successful.

"Chesapeake was the perfect place for me because it was impossible for me to get lost in a sea of faces. I faced challenges here and learned how to persevere," Morgan said.

Once she was diagnosed, Morgan said she looked back on her life and saw many signs of ADD – including the transcript from her first attempt at college.

"I either did very well or very badly in classes. There was no in between," Morgan said. "I’d attempted many more credits than I actually earned. It was the classic ADD result."

Morgan, a Denton resident, was working as the manager of a pet boarding facility when she decided to pursue more education.

"I was learning to live with ADD and thought that I could handle a non-credit training program," Morgan said. "I was preparing to enter the Veterinary Tech training program, when I started counting credits and thinking that, maybe, I should try to finish my degree."

After her first college attempt years ago, Morgan said that she was nervous about entering a traditional credit program. She says that her first meeting at Chesapeake – with advisor Nick Sim – made all of the difference.

"That was a crucial moment for me, and it could have easily gone the other way. I was so self-conscious about that transcript. I was afraid he would ask me how I could expect things to be different this time," Morgan said. "He looked over my past transcript without making comments or passing judgment. Instead, Mr. Sim told me which credits would transfer and laid out a path forward. He acted like this was something I could actually accomplish."

Sim credits Morgan with having the energy to get involved at the college and the determination to succeed.

"I’ve been impressed by how involved Hailey is on our campus," said Sim, who will be retiring this summer. "She has helped the college in many ways and has done well academically. It’s gratifying to hear a student like Hailey say that I was a help to her."

With the support of other staff and her instructors, Morgan said she worked through even the most challenging courses and soon started to believe that she would be successful.

"I’ve used every tool available to deal with ADD," Morgan said. "I make lists and charts to keep up with assignments, and all the other tools the experts recommend for students with ADD."

Still, Morgan said she needed more help, so she devised her own plan.

"I learned that I do best with experiential learning, but most college courses are not designed for hands-on work," Morgan said. "So, I would take myself on field trips, do extra reading and come up with craft projects to learn material presented in class. I would do research on my own to supplement what I learned in class. I did whatever I could to keep myself engaged and interested in the material."

What Morgan jokingly calls "The Hailey Plan" worked, and today she is graduating with honors and a 3.8 grade-point average.

"Hailey’s performance in both the classroom course and in the honors contract was exceptional. In her academic work, she proved to be a highly dedicated and mature student and an independent thinker, one that any professor appreciates," said Professor Stan Kajs. "Hailey is a remarkable, exceptional student."

Morgan’s hard work at Chesapeake extended beyond academics. She has been involved with just about every area of the campus. A leader in the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, she attended the PTK Officers Academy in 2011. She was a stagehand for the Peake Players, served on the Beacon literary journal editorial committee and represented students on two Chesapeake library staff hiring committees. She was the Chesapeake Choice Student Achievement Award winner in 2012.

The Honors Program student also completed honors learning contracts in several of her courses. In addition, Morgan used her experience as a nontraditional student to mentor another 40-something student at Chesapeake. This year, she was an embedded tutor in Developmental English classes and a writing tutor in the Academic Support Center.

"Giving up and just fading away never seemed to be an option for me here. The instructors knew my name and had expectations for me. My interactions with the staff made me feel like I belonged here," Morgan said. "Knowing that people had high expectations really drove me to excel."

Morgan will attend McDaniel University in the fall and plans to major in philosophy. With her outstanding academic record at Chesapeake, Morgan earned a $16,000 merit scholarship to McDaniel. She hopes to eventually combine her love of animals with her desire to help humans, and do advocacy for service animal groups.

"I really want to use my education to help other people find ways to improve their lives," Morgan said. "I hope to show people that they can accomplish their goals with persistence and encouragement. It works!"


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