May 4th, 2021
2021 GC graduates reflect and look forward
Student speaker Riley Upole, classmates upbeat about future
Being selected as this year's 2021 commencement speaker just happens to be one of Riley Upole's fondest memories as a student at Garrett College.
"The honor of being selected to speak at a college commencement ceremony is one that only one fortunate student can have, and I am grateful to be that student," noted Upole, who was also the student speaker at his Fort Hill High School graduation last year.
While Upole will be receiving a General Studies degree, a cybersecurity class he took last fall led him to load up on cyber courses this spring with the goal of pursuing a baccalaureate degree in cybersecurity.
"That allowed me to find my academic passion, which I was desperately searching for prior to coming to Garrett," said Upole, who serves as GC president of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and has been accepted to the University of Maryland College Park, UMBC, and George Washington University. "I was able to work while at Garrett, which allowed me to graduate debt free and have more money than I had when I started college, which is a very unique privilege nowadays."
Upole credits his professors for providing both positive and negative feedback while he was a student at GC, in addition to the many staff members who supported him along the way.
"Faith is a hard thing to come by," said Upole. "All of the insights, recommendations, personal advice, and guidance I received have only added to my character and experiences and in turn has made me a more complete person."
He also is thankful for his initial mentors that led him to pursue a degree in cybersecurity.
"I would like to thank Professor Ziegler, Professor Lewis, and Professor Sisler," added Upole. "If it was not for their passion towards cybersecurity and computer science, I surely would not be as motivated as I am today to pursue a rigorous, but worthwhile, degree and career path."
Like Upole, many of his fellow classmates are also thankful for their experiences and how Garrett College worked to their advantage, even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
"My time as a student allowed me to find out that I am capable of so much more than I ever gave myself credit for," noted Oakland resident Katie Cantrell, a fine and performing arts major. "I know I can work hard and do anything I set my mind to now."
"Garrett College is close to home and the small classes make learning more intimate," added Cantrell, whose future plans include working, volunteering at her church and spending time traveling with her daughter. "I have gained so much from my teachers here that I did not get from my teachers at a large campus."
Oakland resident Stephen Jones, a Natural Resources & Wildlife Technology (NRWT) major, plans to continue his studies at Frostburg State University to complete both his bachelor's and master's in wildlife biology.
"I'd like to thank Kevin Dodge, Peter Skylstad, and all the adjunct professors for believing in me and providing me with the skills to succeed in the workforce," stated Jones. "Garrett College was affordable, close to home, and the NRWT program provides a top-notch education."
Computer science major Allison Oswald, from Blairsville, Pa., plans to attend Mount Aloysius College to complete a bachelor's degree in information technology and a master's in business administration.
"GC has allowed me to continue my athletic career while starting the next chapter in my life," remarked Oswald, who was involved in volleyball, softball, and the CRU bible study group while at Garrett. "GC also offers the advantage of being a small school that is friendly and inviting and was a great choice for me being uncertain about where to continue my education."
For McHenry resident Peyton Carr, Garrett College proved to be a valuable start to both his academic and athletic career.
"I would like to give a shout-out to all my professors who helped me with everything along the way," noted Carr, who played baseball the past two years for the Lakers and plans to attend a four-year university to continue his studies in business administration and his athletic career. "I would also like to thank coach [Eric] Hallenbeck and coach [John] Chambers for all their help in making me a better player and better person."
"I will never forget all the memories I made with friends and teammates here at Garrett College," added Carr.
Lonaconing resident Samuel Beeman credits the teacher education program, and Dr. John Taylor, for finding his calling.
"Dr. John Taylor is a great educator, a great person, and a true inspiration," said Beeman, who aspires to obtain his master's degree in administration in hopes of becoming a principal one day. "He really reinforced my decision to become a teacher and know that it is my calling."
Beeman will be attending Frostburg State University this fall majoring in elementary/middle school dual certification to become a teacher.
"GC's teacher education program has well prepared me for the education field and even allowed me to observe in a public-school setting, which gets my foot in the door with the Garrett County Public Schools system," remarked Beeman. "Attending Garrett allowed me to save a lot of money by getting an AA degree and extending my education almost for free because of the Garrett County Scholarship Program."
As a result of the quality of education she received at Garrett College, Garrett County resident Olivia Weeks is more than confident and prepared to enter the workforce directly after graduation.
"It would be such a dream to become a full-time graphic designer or a freelance artist," said Weeks, who is studying graphic/web design. "If you are hesitant about continuing your education, Garrett College is the best place to take that leap of faith. I was hesitant about going to college, too, but I am really thankful that I decided to do it."
A highlight from this semester for Weeks has been her Ceramics I class on Mondays and Wednesdays.
"I am so thankful that even during COVID-19, Garrett offered this fully in-person class to students," she explained. "The small, intimate class setting has allowed me to learn a lot and practice my skills on the potter's wheel, while making it super safe for students to participate. It is also taught by one of my favorite teachers, Mr. Skidmore – he's awesome!"
Weeks continued, "I have grown a lot as an individual at the college, and the people here have made nothing but a positive-lasting impression on my life."
Upole will be addressing his fellow graduates on May 15th during Garrett College's 49th commencement ceremony. GC's commencement will be virtual, live-streamed on the college website, while recognizing both the Class of 2021 and the 2020 graduates. The virtual ceremony will officially kick off Garrett College's 50th anniversary celebration that will conclude next May with the graduation of the 50th class.