By Natalie Jones and Christina Aufderheide
WYE MILLS — Despite an unusual college experience punctuated by pandemic concerns and economic uncertainty, Chesapeake College’s class of 2022 pushed forward in the face of adversity and celebrated their accomplishments at commencement Wednesday, May 25.
A total of 250 students graduated from Chesapeake College this spring, with 115 marching across the stage on Wednesday.
Chesapeake College president Clifford Coppersmith addressed the graduates and their families to talk about recent events and how they shaped the student body.
“Class of 2022, you have triumphed in completing a task with unbelievable obstacles thrown your way,” Coppersmith said. “The pandemic taught us economic uncertainty, and now, historic events in Europe have occurred that we hoped we would never see in our lifetimes.”
Coppersmith shared advice learned in his educational career that he hopes the new alumni will take into consideration as they move on to new paths — trying to be willing to do something challenging, to be willing to be more than is required and to not fear.
Coppersmith said he started his career in education at a community college in western New York very similar to Chesapeake College.
“Some of you will go to work every morning in challenging careers from which we prepared you for at this campus. You will fill vital roles in healthcare, in the skilled professions and in business,” he said. “For others, this is the beginning of a continuing journey with the arts and sciences, education and social services.”
Coppersmith also reminded the graduates that what is great to you does not need to be defined by others, but defined by your own journey.
One of those graduates on her own journey is Yanying “Stella” Wei of Cambridge, who received the John T. Harrison Award, the college’s top honor. Wei immigrated to the United States from China in 2019 and started taking ESL and adult basic education classes at Chesapeake College that same year.
After gaining a firm academic foundation, Wei enrolled in general education and business classes in a degree program, leading her to earn a business degree from Chesapeake this spring.
In the fall, Wei will attend the University of Maryland, College Park’s Robert H. Smith School of Business to study finance and pursue work in the banking industry. However, she also has a non-academic goal in mind.
“My ultimate dream is to open my own small business one day and to save enough money to enjoy life,” she said of her future plans.
Wei also advised students to not give up on their dreams, saying they will reach the peak eventually if they work hard to overcome obstacles.
Many other new graduates are planning to embark on journeys in continuing their at Chesapeake or a four-year institution or entering the workforce.
For Callie Bradshaw, a degree in liberal arts and sciences from Chesapeake College is the perfect precursor to her next step: earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Maryland Global Campus.
Bradshaw, a member of the international honor society Phi Kappa Theta, said she had a great experience at Chesapeake, and especially loved her English classes.
After completing her degree in exercise science and health and fitness, graduate Kelsey Boyles plans on coming back to Chesapeake to participate in the radiology program.
Others are planning to jump straight into the workforce, like Cayla Beam, who graduated with a degree in biological sciences.
Looking forward, Beam hopes to work for the Department of Natural Resources and assist with wildlife and conservation efforts.
Beam said that despite COVID impacting some of her college experience, she still enjoyed the campus and her professors, who were “really there” for her.
Nursing major and Phi Theta Kappa honor society member Alexa Blazejak said her experience at Chesapeake was “amazing,” citing the college’s student engagement activities as one of her favorite parts.
After graduation, Blazejak will work as a registered nurse at the University of Maryland Shore Regional Medical Center in Easton through their new grad residency program. She also hopes to attain her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing.
Surgical tech student Valerie Fox received her associate’s degree in applied science and is getting ready to start a new job in organ procurement.
“I feel excited. I’m getting ready to start a new chapter in my life. I look forward to it very much,” Fox said.
Graduate Molly Stahl also received a degree in applied science and says she is looking forward to a new job in her field: working at the Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air as a surgical tech.
Parents and faculty also rejoiced in being able to celebrate the class of 2022 in person.
Ralph Turri attended the graduation ceremony to watch his son Alex graduate.
“I feel very proud that he graduated and stuck with everything to make it here today,” Turri said.
Biological sciences professor Dr. Tammy Field attended the ceremony and said she was glad she could be there in person.
“I just feel blessed that we can meet in person today, and it’s a beautiful day outside after all this rainy weather we’ve had,” Field said.
Closing his remarks to the graduates, Coppersmith quoted Albert Einstein: “do not try to become a success, but try to become a valuable.”
“Congratulations class of 2022 — now go out there and make a difference,” he said.
Original article published by The Star Democrat: "Chesapeake College celebrates 250 graduates."