"So it's pretty exciting for us," she said.

The college's Outstanding Student Leadership Award for 2013 was presented to Spencer Blackwell, president of the Student Government Association.

Blackwell said later he was "literally speechless."

"I really enjoyed my time here, and I'm glad I was able to make some sort of contribution to this college," the Joppa resident said humbly.

Blackwell earned a certificate in secondary education and plans to transfer to St. Mary's College of Maryland, where he will pursue a bachelor's degree in natural science.

Terri Ewing gave the student graduate address. The 52-year-old Harford County native spoke about her experience of coming to college after losing her job and struggling with disability.

She said she lost her job after she lost her ability to write because of a diagnosis of focal dystonia.

Dystonia is known as a "movement disorder that causes the muscles to contract and spasm involuntarily," according to the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation's website.

Ewing said the condition caused her to lose fine motor control in her hands, leaving her unable to hold a pen or type.

With financial support from the Harford County Department of Rehabilitation and practical support from the college's Disability Support Services, Ewing was able to get her degree in two years and graduate with a 4.0 grade point average.

Disability Support Services staffers took notes for Ewing, and one who became a close friend, Kelly Sebour, attended Thursday's graduation at Ewing's invitation.

She stressed in her speech she worked to cast off the "label" of disabled.

"A disability is not shameful. . . . just because somebody labels you as disabled, don't take it," Ewing said after the ceremony.