For Alajandra Robinson, Thursday was a long time coming. The Bowie resident, one of two valedictorians to address graduates at this year's Anne Arundel Community College commencement ceremony, wanted to go into culinary sciences after high school, but was deterred.
Years after high school, in a successful broadcast news career in her native Antigua, Robinson couldn’t shake the nagging feeling she needed to pursue her passion. And so, she did.
“A lot of people told me I was crazy,” she said. “It was disappointing, but I reminded myself they weren’t there in the mornings when I woke up and thought I had no purpose for the day going to work, or I was going through the motions just for the paycheck.”
Robinson, now a chef at a restaurant and catering establishment in Annapolis who looks forward to going to work, was one of the roughly 500 graduates who participated in the college’s ceremonies, one at 11 a.m. and the other at 4 p.m. at The Event Center at Live! Casino & Hotel. Approximately 2,044 students graduated with 2,488 degrees and certificates.*
After two years of celebrating commencement with a car parade, AACC graduates were able to walk the stage indoors.
“Each of us here today has had our personal and professional lives interrupted. We had to quickly adapt through unpredictable change,” AACC President Dawn Lindsay told the crowd of supporters and rows of students clad in blue gowns. “Thank you, the Class of 2022, for your dedication and persistence, and trusting your educational experience to AACC.”
Mario Gozum, a computer sciences major and valedictorian, said COVID-19 hit shortly after he started taking courses part time, while still working full time. The Chester resident and father of three said he would have appreciated more of a hybrid approach, but he decided to make the 2020 pandemic online shift work for him.
“Instead of driving, I could hit the books already. It maximized the time I could use for school,” he said. Though he has an aerospace engineering degree from an institute in his natives Philippines, studying cybersecurity was a new challenge. Despite the challenges, he said he felt a sense of community virtually. “I felt very supported by the professors.”
Faculty speaker Candice Hill, Ph.D., who quoted both Emily Dickinson and Lizzo in her speech, thanked students for showing up, for turning on the camera in video conferences and introducing her to children, dogs and lizards. “So many lizards,” she laughed.
“You take up space in that outfit, both literally and metaphorically. Education is about taking up space. For me, teaching composition and literature is bringing students to a place where they are comfortable taking up space: on the page, in the classroom, in their families, in their communities, in their world,” she said. “Class of 2022, you’re taking up space. Virtual space. Real space. … Congratulations. You have been called to rise and here you are.”
*The numbers of graduates, degrees and certificates are unofficial and usually change after all grades and appeals have been finalized.