For many local high school seniors, prom nights were practically a distant memory and the waves of stress over final exams had finally given way to calmer waters. The last task at hand was donning the cap and gown, striding briskly across a stage, shaking a few hands, and finally securing that hard-earned diploma.
On May 30 at 10 a.m., 380 seniors from Quince Orchard High School (QOHS) graduated at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., in front of family, friends, faculty and fellow students. Charter buses were sponsored by the PTSA to help students and their families arrive downtown on time for the ceremony. The school was closed for the occasion so underclassmen and faculty could attend the commencement.
The speaker for the ceremony was Elizabeth B. Strubel, director of school performance for the Clarksburg, Northwest, Quince Orchard and Seneca Valley school clusters.
Three valedictorians spoke to the QOHS Class of 2012: J. Annie Chen, Julie Neveleff and Grace Toohey. In a stirring speech to her fellow classmates, Toohey proudly announced, “Collectively we are the future of this world, and I believe in us.”
Their principal, Carole A. Working, agrees. “I believe in them, too,” she reflected later. “[This is] a great group of kids. They are capable and caring young people, and their future is bright.”
For three of the graduates, this bright future includes appointments to U.S. military and naval academies. Ninety-four students from the QOHS graduating class were accepted at The University of Maryland (UMD). Other noteworthy colleges to which seniors were accepted include M.I.T, Cornell, Vanderbilt University, University of Michigan, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. The number of graduates who plan to stay in Montgomery County and enroll at Montgomery College is still to be determined.
Working’s considerable pride in her graduates is understandable. Speaking several days after the commencement, she said, “The Quince Orchard Class of 2012 was an outstanding class academically. Throughout their four years, the spirit with which they cared for each other and for the Quince Orchard community defined them as a class.”
On June 5 at 2:30 p.m., also at DAR Constitution Hall, the graduating seniors from the Northwest High School Class of 2012 were recognized at their commencement ceremony. The ceremony’s keynote speaker was Dr. William J. Higgins, associate professor of biology from the University of Maryland.
Northwest seniors had a lot to celebrate on top of the achievement of graduation, according to their principal, Lance Dempsey. “The class of 2012 earned more scholarship money than any other class in the history of Northwest High School — almost $10 million!”
Two students were named Posse Foundation Scholars and were awarded full-tuition scholarships: Affan Ahmad will attend the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Sennay Ghenbot was accepted to Pepperdine University. (Founded in 1989, the Posse Foundation is a college access and youth leadership develoment program with partners with colleges and universities around the country.)
These students are in good company. “This is an extraordinary class with outstanding character,” said Dempsey.
Many Northwest seniors received honors ranging from Meritorious Service and the President’s Education Award to National Merit, AP Scholar and National Achievement recognition.
High-profile colleges and universities to which students were accepted include Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Elon, Johns Hopkins, Penn State, VA Tech and Yale Universities.
Ninety-five students from Northwest were accepted by UMD, 27 of whom were named Banneker-Key, Honors College or College Park Scholars. Twenty-five of the students accepted to UMD were admitted for spring 2013 but are eligible for the Freshman Connection program (see sidebar). In addition, 125 students plan to attend nearby Montgomery College for the fall semester.
Overall, area teens have much to be proud of this spring as they receive their high school diplomas and embark on the next chapter of their lives.
What Is ‘Freshmen Connection’?
The University of Maryland’s (UMD) College Park campus offers a Freshmen Connection program to students admitted for the spring semester. The program is hosted by the Office of Extended Studies, which also oversees the winter and summer terms.
Freshmen who confirm their spring admission are able to take up to 17 credits from UMD faculty and can then stay on track to graduate in four years with their peers who were accepted for the fall semester. Grades earned by students in this program are recorded in their transcripts and counted towards required credit hours.
Because tuition for Freshmen Connection is based on a full course load, just as it is for all full-time students, participants are encouraged to take at least 13 credits.
Freshmen Connection courses are held during traditionally less popular class times starting at 3 p.m. Monday – Thursday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays. Students in this program must enroll in UNIV100 as part of their 17 credit allowance. This course is designed to help students adjust to college life and learn to succeed and find balance at the university level.
While students may join clubs during the fall semester, they cannot participate in NCAA athletic teams.
Students are able to participate in the campus dining plan, which is open to everyone at UMD. Because of the general scarcity of housing on the College Park campus, however, housing is not provided for students in the Freshman Connection program.
Off-Campus Housing Services can help students find housing and roommates at one of the many off-campus apartments, such as University View, and nearby rental homes. Once students are enrolled in the Freshman Connection program, they can use the roommate finder and the online housing database provided on the office’s website, och.umd.edu.