Community college grads turn the page; HCC: A young man's tale of perseverance and heart is a highlight of the Howard commencement.

Hoots and hollers rose to the stage when Howard Community College President Mary Ellen Duncan called Nicholas Denson's name.

Fellow graduates cheered for the 19-year-old at the 29th commencement of Howard Community College at Merriweather Post Pavilion yesterday.


A couple years earlier, Denson's parents abandoned him after their divorce.

"I didn't have a nice family. Neither one wanted to take me," said Denson of his parents before the ceremony.


Alone at 17, the Atholton High student moved in with a friend's family and began to think hard about his future.

He contacted HCC and asked about scholarships. A counselor reviewed his grades and suggested he apply to be a Rouse Scholar. The James W. Rouse Program provides honors course work and opportunities for students bound for distinguished four-year colleges.

Denson was accepted. He believes individuals need to take charge of their educations.

"I'm doing a lot of this on my own," he said.

As a student ambassador, he frequently talked with prospective students. "I tell them my story, how much money I saved," Denson said. "I'm still going to get a prestigious education."

In the fall, he will attend the Johns Hopkins University on full scholarship and pursue a degree in mechanical engineering.

At the commencement, Denson introduced County Executive James N. Robey. "Let's give a hand to our county offi- cials," said the lighthearted graduate.

"Community college gave me the chance to be what I am today," said Robey, who graduated from Catonsville Community College before attending the University of Maryland. "Always remember where you got your start, and that was here at Howard Community College."


About 350 students received degrees, and about half of those graduates attended the commencement.

The widely represented programs included nursing, general studies, business administration, liberal arts and teacher education.

Dr. Benjamin Carson, director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, gave the keynote speech.

Carson wanted people to "THINK BIG," an acronym for eight words to live by: talent, honesty, insight, nice, knowledge, books, in-depth learning and God.

He was met with applause when he stressed the importance of God.

"Don't be ashamed of God," Carson said. "Please go out armed with the knowledge that it's OK to live by God."


"I can't" has no place in America," he said. "Do your best. Accept responsibility. Don't make excuses.

"Whatever dream you have, you have the ability to accomplish it," Carson said.

Perhaps nursing program graduate Marian Keller Inglehart, also a commencement speaker, conveyed the moment best.

"It is the journey, not the destination," Inglehart said. "Ten years from now, we won't look back on this graduation."

Pub Date: 5/19/00

For the record

A caption in Friday's Howard County edition incorrectly identified Ena Hibbert. The Sun regrets the error.