About 300 Harford Community College students of all ages donned blue robes Thursday evening, ready to graduate and begin the next chapter in their lives.
Inside the campus library, members of the HCC Class of 2012 stood along the walls and crowded into the aisles between bookshelves and computer stations, some checking Facebook just moments before lining up.
Grayling Johnson, of Baltimore, stood in the rear a bookshelf, speaking to fellow graduate and Baltimore resident Ben Rosenquist.
Johnson, 48, returned home in November after a tour of duty in Iraq and found out that he had enough credits to graduate after two and a half years of attendance.
"Thank God for HCC," Johnson joked, "for taking my transfer credits."
Johnson received his degree in information systems security, or cyber security, a career he's already a part of in the Army.
Beyond getting that piece of paper that shows his hard work and diligence, Johnson said he's setting a good example for his children.
"My kids can see if dad can do it, they can do it," he said. "It's a journey. You just got to get to the finish line."
Rosenquist, 55, was graduating with high honors, Phi Theta Kappa, but it was an interesting road that got him to his AA degree.
When asked why he decided to get his associate's degree, Rosenquist said:
"I got laid off." Fortunately, he continued, "the opportunity presented itself by the state" to attend college.
Rosenquist has been an engineer by trade for years and, as he described it, getting his diploma was just "wrapping up the degree part of my career."
He was also excited after watching his stepchildren earn degrees and decided finally it was "my turn."
Havre de Grace resident Courtney Borowski was also graduating in a field that she has worked in for many years — business administration
Borowski, 33, works at the Aberdeen Proving Ground test center and has been on the same career path for 14 years.
It took her four years to complete her studies at HCC because she works full-time and is raising two kids, she added.
Her husband, she added, is working on his master's degree.
"That's actually why I did it," Borowski said. "To have that image [for] them."
As the students gathered outside and proceeded into the large white tent where the commencement ceremony was held, friends and family members furiously snapped photographs before their loved ones took their seats for the ceremony.
A few shouted, "Congrats!" Others made their student pose for a quick photo.