Press Release, College of Southern Maryland

The New Year holds endless possibilities for more than 50 students who recently graduated from the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) Adult Education Program with their Maryland high school diplomas. The Southern Maryland residents who span in age and life experiences all achieved the same academic milestone during the fall semester – with some even donning caps and gowns to cross the stage to Pomp and Circumstance, and applause, at their long-awaited graduation ceremonies.

“For many of you, this is the moment you have dreamed for, and on behalf of the college’s dedicated team and Adult Education staff, we are delighted to help make your dreams become your reality,” said CSM President Dr. Maureen Murphy during the graduation ceremony held at CSM’s Prince Frederick Campus. “We are proud of each and every one of you for your persistence and success in earning this diploma. It comes with all the rights and privileges that go along with it. And now, you are ready for your next challenge, whether it’s post-secondary education or a career.”

“Two paths allow one to walk across the stage tonight – the passing of the GED (General Educational Development) test and completing the National External Diploma Program (NEDP). Both culminate in earning a Maryland high school diploma,” added Ellen N. Beattie, adult instructional services chief with the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

“Within every celebrated ending, a new opportunity beckons,” Beattie continued. “Allow this accomplishment to drive you forward. This is the first step in your new journey. Know that there is no straight line from where you are sitting today to where you are going. You may detour from your plan; you may get it wrong; you may miss big opportunities. Careers are less like ladders and more like jungle gyms. But from every experience you’ll learn.”

 “We all have accomplished something special here and I would like to congratulate the entire class,” said Mark Cooksey, 50, of Waldorf. Cooksey served as the student guest speaker at his graduation ceremony in Prince Frederick.

“Even though I had my dream job, I was done with all of the hiding and lies,” shares Mark Cooksey. “I made my mind up I was going back to get my high school diploma.”

“Even though I had my dream job, I was done with all of the hiding and lies,” he shared with the audience. “I made my mind up I was going back to get my high school diploma. I was tired of my education being my Achilles heel and holding me back.

(See CSM story:Waldorf’s Mark Cooksey’sMessage to Those with Disabilities: “Nothing In Life Holds You Back.”)

At the St. Mary’s County ceremony held at CSM’s Leonardtown Campus, student guest speaker and graduate Roxanna Orellana shared her compelling story of making her way from El Salvador to earn her high school diploma in the United States through CSM.

“Here I am today, beginning a new chapter that will define the rest of my life,” Orellana told her graduating class, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his speech, ‘I have a dream.’

“Those words of inspiration and full of hope resonated all the way to a small village in the mountains of El Salvador,” she continued. “In that village, with fewer opportunities and full of broken dreams, a small girl was born. She grew up dreaming big ideas and the hope for a better future. Ideas that one day she would return to inspire other generations living under the wonder of fairy tales. In spite of all odds, here I am; the first member of my immediate family to earn a high school diploma, and perhaps, the only one with a high probability to attend college.”

All of the students who received their high school diploma learned at their graduations that the CSM Foundation, for the second year in a row, will provide them with a scholarship to continue their education at CSM. The CSM Foundation provides these funds through the Adult Education Scholarship, as a way to recognize and congratulate the students on their hard work.

“Helping our Adult Education graduates in their next steps here at the Prince Frederick Campus is something we do really well,” Murphy shared at the Calvert County ceremony before also announcing the recipient of the Dr. Rich Fleming Scholarship. Fleming was the previous vice president and dean of the Prince Frederick Campus and was on-hand to award diploma recipient Lisa Beruti with her scholarship.

“Without academically sound and committed partners like the College of Southern Maryland, our mission of providing literacy services and workforce readiness to our citizens could not be accomplished,” Beattie also said during her remarks. “Department of Labor does not hold any classes, tutor any students, or provide the vital counseling and guidance needed to find academic success. Our partners do that. Please know that my team and I at the Department of Labor appreciate the tireless work that the college’s administrators, staff, and instructors devote to our learners.”

Graduates earning their high school diploma at CSM’s Prince Frederick Campus move their tassels from right to left to signify their accomplishments during the recognition ceremony.

Receiving high school diplomas through the CSM Adult Education Program in 2018, and participating in the graduation ceremonies in Calvert County were:

Dominic Joseph Aragon, Lisa Beruti, Mark Alan Cooksey, Melissa Gail Edwards, Riley Lynn Evans, Naquan E. Freeland, Nora M. Gause, Ernest M. Hensley, Jennifer R Layman, David E. Layman Jr., Albert Nathaniel Peyton, Rosetta Lucille Young and Zhi Fang Zheng.

To view photographs from the graduation ceremony at the Prince Frederick Campus, visit

Participants about to receive their high school diplomas through the CSM Adult Education Program at the graduation ceremonies in St. Mary’s County.

Receiving high school diplomas through the CSM Adult Education Program in 2018, and participating in the graduation ceremonies in St. Mary’s County were:

Tavia Love Ayers, Loriana Fayne Baker, Kimberly J. Biscoe, Patrick Sinclair Doss, Gabriel Annette Harris, Jason Anthony Hoover, Shelby Lynne Martin, Cheyenne Brandy Shaye McQarrie, Kiara Moses, Maria Nunez, Douglas Oliver, Roxana Orellana, David Alexander Paolillo, Ashley Monique Proctor, Andrew Lee Spendolini, Tyler Evan Stauffer, Joseph F. Sullivan, Adam Swope, Matteo Roberto Torres, Calvin Nelson Washington, Kyle L. Wedding and Pamela Kaye Zimmerman.

To view photographs from the graduation ceremony at the Leonardtown Campus, visit

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...