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'20 winter commencement sidelined by COVID-19

  • UMES grads find solace reaching their goal, just the same

    Friday, November 20, 2020

    UMES' class of 2020 will have stories to tell at future reunions unlike those of Hawk alumni who came before them over the previous 100 years. 

    Two hundred twenty-eight students finished degree work this fall under trying circumstances as the coronavirus prohibited commencement festivities. 

    The university started instruction two weeks earlier than it normally would - Aug. 10 - with hope of holding a traditional graduation ceremony prior to Thanksgiving. 

    But an alarming November surge in the spread of COVID-19 nationwide compelled the state of Maryland to limit the size of gatherings and consequently led to cancellation of graduation for a second time this year. 

    Nonetheless, UMES students are appreciative, resilient and upbeat about what the future holds:


    Naasira Brown-El, English, Baltimore: 

    “Coming into school, I wasn't really happy. But I can say today I'm a happy, fun, intelligent person. I have UMES to thank for that.  It's a place that helped me become an adult.” 

    “(Graduation) is one of the biggest steps of my life. It's no more 'I'm a child.' It's a stepping stone to my adult life. I can do it. I told myself I would graduate. It's a major goal I accomplished.” 

    Brown-El graduated in 3½ years and now shifts her attention to qualifying to enroll in law school.


    Jose Garcia, Electrical Engineering Technology, District Heights, Md.: 

    “Being a UMES student … motivated me. It made me who I am. It pushed me to be someone better. Being a Hawk means something dearly to me.”

    “Sophomore year was a tough year for me. I had some distractions. I didn't know if I was going to overcome it. Friends and family rallied around me. Three words I learned to live by: 'in due time.'” 

    “Graduating … means the world to me. I almost dropped out. I know my family is proud of me. All eyes are on me. It makes me want to cry. It's real now.”

    Garcia will join Phillips USA as a field service engineer in its Imaging Systems Department.


    Young Lee, Golf Management, Mt. Airy, Md.: 

    “It has been a very humbling experience being a UMES student. I had my ups and downs. But you have all the resources here you need to succeed. It's up to you to take advantage. You learn to make choices for yourself.” “You just have to keep looking for your happiness, what you are passionate about and then follow that path. That worked for me.” 

    “It's the end of a chapter, and a new chapter begins. I feel like I'm a freshman in life. I want to keep on learning. You can never quite master it. If I can impact a life or two, that's what I would like to do.” 

    Lee is weighing offers from three tournament-caliber golf courses to join their staffs as an associate professional.


    Jordan Robinson, Criminal Justice, Rockville, Md.: 

    “The university is an open and welcoming place. I liked it was a close-knit community where you could get to know others easily. Plus, there was the 'HBCU' element and the special camaraderie that goes along with that.” 

    “It just seems easier to talk to professors, or get help with finances, your class schedule. You're not lost in 400-student classes.” 

    “Becoming a law enforcement officer will be a stepping stone for me. My goal is to be a special agent - maybe a homicide detective.” 

    “I know in my heart I will do right by the public, and abide by people's constitutional rights - represent the profession as best I can.” 

    Robinson will be joining the City of Rockville, Md. police department


     A virtual graduation celebration is scheduled Dec. 18.