FCC Student Proves She's Invincible: A Journey From Living on a Boat to Attending College

When she was 12 years old, Kat Hogan’s father woke up one morning and told his family, “It’s time to go sailing.”

This wasn’t just a spur-of-the moment trip. It was the start of a new life.

Kat lived on the sailboat- named Invincible- with her parents and six siblings for close to five years. The family, who except for Kat’s mom, had no previous sailing experience, first spent time traveling through the intercoastal regions of the United States, then through the Western and Eastern Caribbean.

“It was kind of awkward being a teenager on a boat in such close proximity. It was a little bit of an adjustment, especially as a teenage girl,” laughs Kat. “We traveled to over 19 separate countries throughout the Caribbean.”

The family eventually became close with others in the boating community and learned that they could trust and rely on each other, whether that meant keeping an eye on each other’s children, or occasionally bartering skills to help fix each other’s boats. And while other kids her age might have been making extra money babysitting, Kat and her siblings would earn their money by going boat to boat asking others in their “community”  if they needed their hulls scraped, or the inside of their boats cleaned.

When she was 15, her family was anchored off the coast of Puerto Rico when they met a family who was vacationing from the Frederick, MD area. Their children became instant friends, and soon the families were keeping in touch and reconnecting whenever they had a chance to sail and meet up.

Kat had shown an early interest in biology and she always knew she wanted to go to college, but being homeschooled on a boat, wasn’t sure if she would be prepared. When she was 16, the family friends offered to have Kat come and visit them at their home in Jefferson, MD. This visit provided an opportunity for her to take her PSAT at Brunswick High School, and she ended up extending her visit so she could learn more about Frederick Community College (FCC) and take her placement tests there.

By 17, Kat was living in Maryland and taking classes at FCC as an open campus high school student. “I told my parents I could always come back on the boat if it didn’t work out,” she says.

But it did work out. Kat is now a full-time student at FCC, studying biology and working two jobs. She recently purchased her first car and is thinking about transferring to University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) after she graduates with her associate degree. After growing up on a crowded boat in such close proximity to her family, she has successfully navigated the challenges of applying for financial aid, enrolling in classes, and planning her academic path, much on her own.

“Everyone here cares about you and they’re willing to help you learn,” says Kat. “You’re an adult, and treated with respect, but they’re willing to help you through the process because they know you’ve never done it before.”

She has already told her younger sister that when the time comes for her to start thinking about college, she will be here to guide her along the way.

While it was a difficult adjustment at first, Kat’s upbringing has greatly shaped who she is today. She says the experience of traveling and living on a boat made her really appreciate diversity, and helps her be better able to understand people and where they come from.

“When we first moved onto the boat I told my mom I would never forgive her for taking me onto a boat, I was so upset. And I remember her telling me that one day I would thank her,” she says. “I think it was last year sometime when I went to go visit them over my winter break, I actually thanked my mom and said yeah, I’m really glad you took me onto the boat.”


FCC Dual Enrollment Alumni Speeds Toward Graduation While Saving $30K

Frederick Community College (FCC) graduate Tomas Aker earned an associate degree in information technology as well as a Network Engineer Certificate and a Computer Studies Certificate, all before his 19th birthday. Tomas graduated from high school with 31 college credits under his belt, earned through a combination of Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) articulation, advanced placement, and the FCC Dual Enrollment program. Earning these credits as a high school student helped propel his pace of completion, and he hasn’t slowed down since.
As a senior in high school, Tomas began taking FCC classes through the high school based Dual Enrollment program, which he learned about while he was a student at the FCPS Career and Technology Center (CTC). Through the program, FCPS students are able to enroll in FCC courses that are taught at their high school.
While in the Dual Enrollment program, Tomas earned 10 college credits. The following year he became a full-time FCC student and earned 31 more credits.
Tomas graduated from FCC in spring 2017 and transferred to University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) where he is now in his junior year. “It’s a great school for STEM,” he said.
Tomas expects to graduate with a degree in information systems next year. He estimates that he saved around $30,000 by participating in the Dual Enrollment program and attending FCC before transferring, and will likely continue his cost savings. “I plan to come back to FCC for J-Term and summer to take Spanish classes,” he said.
Dual Enrollment helps high school students by introducing them to college level courses while still in the comfort of their high school and with teachers they may already know. Perhaps the most beneficial advantage of the program is the cost savings. Students in the high school based Dual Enrollment program are able to earn college credit for less than half the cost of taking open campus courses at FCC or enrolling after high school graduation.
FCPS students interested in the Dual Enrollment program can find more information here.


FCC Graduate and Outgoing SGA President Credits FCC with Leadership Development

John-Paul Legare, a recent Frederick Community College graduate and outgoing Student Government Association president, credits his development as a leader to his FCC experience. He describes his role as a student-leader as challenging, formative and illuminating.

“At FCC, I met so many different people and learned so much from them,” LeGare said. “I have been so inspired by the college’s leadership, and that has helped me grow into a more confident and capable leader.”

LeGare’s resume reveals a well-disciplined and motivated student with exemplary test scores, impressive academic grades and roles in the Honors Program and numerous student clubs. n person, he registers as wise and articulate beyond his young age. His confident delivery and compassion reinforce the public speaking awards he’s received over the years. LeGare believes that leadership starts with communication. “I like to talk with other students about their academic and career ambitions,” he said. “This conversation helps students recognize their goals, and it inspires me to support them however I can.”

FCC President Elizabeth Burmaster described LeGare as an excellent representative of the college.

“Throughout his time at FCC, John-Paul has proven himself to be a motivated leader who finds countless ways to get involved,” Burmaster said. “It has been a joy to get to know him and watch him grow as a leader. We are proud to call him an FCC graduate and know he will continue to accomplish great things.”

What is perhaps LeGare’s most striking trait is the earnest pride he shows in supporting the success of others. He values his peers and finds it rewarding to help others grow to their full potential. “In my first semester, I met a student who was going through a lot of challenges in his life that were affecting his studies,” LeGare said. “He particularly struggled with talking to new people. Together, we worked on developing his social skills so he could find a sense of belonging and integrate with his peers. With a newfound confidence, he earned academic success, became the leader of a student club and graduate.”

LeGare believes that good leaders are eloquent speakers, but great leaders are also engaged listeners.“So many of my peers achieve amazing things such as attending prestigious honors and STEM conferences, playing in the college World Series and winning technology competitions,” LeGare said. “As a leader, I share pride and excitement for their success. This builds a stronger community where we celebrate achievements together.”

Leaders may receive popular acclaim for visionary changes, but LeGare finds that leaders also exist by bringing dimension and conviction to support roles. He doesn’t think of himself as a leader who needs to make changes. Instead, he would rather inspire others and use his position to help them realize their vision for FCC.

LeGare was moved by how much he learned at FCC, both in and out of the classroom. “The faculty and staff are incredibly dedicated to serving the students and do an exceptional job keeping students at the center of their mission,” LeGare said. “Leadership can be taught in a lot of ways and many places. FCC gave me the chance to experience leadership firsthand, and that’s something I’ll take with me forever.”


FCC Student Awarded White House Internship

Callie M. Gorgol, a Frederick Community College (FCC) student pursuing an Associate Degree of Applied Science in Emergency Management, has been selected to participate in the White House Internship Program.

The White House Internship Program provides a unique opportunity to gain valuable professional experience and build leadership skills. This hands-on program, designed to mentor and cultivate today’s young leaders, strengthens the participant’s understanding of the Executive Office and prepares them for future public service opportunities.

Looking forward to her first day as a summer intern in the Administration Office of the Chief Logistics Officer for White House Continuity of Operations, Gorgol says she is “honored to be selected to perform the duties for this internship. This confirms what hard work and dedication can provide for anyone.”

During this prestigious opportunity, Gorgol plans to apply the skills and knowledge she is gaining at FCC to her role in the Office of Administration while garnering valuable insight into emergency management and continuity planning for all components within the Executive Office of the President (EOP).

Gorgol is excited to share her experiences when she returns to FCC this fall, adding, “I intend to use this learning experience to humbly benefit my fellow students so that they too will be inspired to do their best.”

The White House Internship Program is a public service leadership program whose mission is to make the “People’s House” accessible to future leaders from around the nation. About the Mid-Atlantic Center for Emergency Management (MACEM) at Frederick Community College MACEM provides educational opportunities, career training and innovative programming to emergency management professionals in every phase at every level in the industry. Contact MACEM/FCC at 240.629.7970 or MACEM@Frederick.edu. Learn more at www.Frederick.edu/EM.

Read more here.


Students Gain Cultural Competence in Costa Rica

After leading students on a thought-provoking and thrilling trip to Costa Rica this past January, Professor Lora Diaz is now making plans for another course trip to the same location in January 2019.

The course, titled Global Scholar Experience in Costa Rica, will run January 4 through January 22, 2019. The group will travel between January 3 and January 12, 2019.

The Central American country – known for its stunning national parks and extraordinary biodiversity – is an ideal location for a global scholar experience, Diaz said.

"The diverse geography of Costa Rica gives us the opportunity for so many adventures,” Diaz said. “We zipline through jungle canopy, swim in volcanic hot springs, ride horseback through gorgeous mountains, visit a coffee plantation, and go whitewater rafting in brilliant waters – just to name a few."

Throughout the adventures, Diaz leads her students through discussions on different concepts of cultural competence, which develop their ability to interact and communicate effectively and respectfully with people of other cultures and nationalities. Students learn to listen, gain sensitivity to the verbal and nonverbal cues that people give, and how to be culturally responsive. Diaz said the trip helps students expand their world, appreciate different cultures, and learn that everyone perceives things with a different lens.

“Toward the end of the trip, the students were starting conversations and building off previously learned concepts while showing respect and appreciation for other perspectives as they discussed life in Costa Rica and shared from their own lives,” Diaz said. “It was a clear indication they were applying what we were learning and starting their journey of cultural responsiveness.”

FCC student Kaitlyn Scott was one of those students. She said the trip helped her become more culturally aware.

“Before I went on the trip, I had never been outside of the United States, so when I arrived in Costa Rica, I was surprised how different the lives of Costa Ricans were,” Scott said. “Despite this, the experience also allowed me to see how similar we are. I would recommend this experience due to the social involvement and the experiences available.”

After the 10-day trip, students return home and work on a final project, which can focus on any topic of Costa Rican culture that piqued their interest during their travels. Students on the previous trip delved into topics such as the country’s ecotourism industry, the vibrant colors of the culture and what they represent, and why the term “Pura Vida” – which means “pure life” – is such a commonly used term among Costa Ricans.  

“I heard from several students during their final projects that they realized this isn’t a class that you walk away from and are done with,” Diaz said. “For them, it’s the beginning of this cultural awareness. It’s the beginning of a journey that they will continue. The skills they learn will help them be successful wherever they go.”

For more information about the January 2019 trip, visit www.explorica.com/Diaz-2239 or contact Lora Diaz at 301.846.2551.


FCC and Community Partners Offer Career Exploration Program for Middle Schoolers

Frederick Community College partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of Frederick County and the Housing Authority of the City of Frederick to give middle school students the opportunity to explore careers through a six-week summer program. 

The full-day program, which ran in July and August at FCC, exposed the students to two different areas of study each week. Students were immersed into culinary, coding, lyric writing and audio production, carpentry, architecture, gaming, and more. Classes were taught by FCC instructors.
Lisa McDonald, Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Frederick County, said it was clear how much the students loved the program because of their excitement and engagement in each class.
“We focus on career development and exploration,” McDonald said. “[This program gave] opportunities to children who might not have the opportunities to come learn about culinary, coding, architecture, and a lot of fun things.”
Student Camari Wars said the culinary classes were his favorite because he learned to make new recipes he can share with his family.
Melanie Hoff, who led one of the culinary classes, said she was impressed with the creative dishes students came up with when given basic recipes and the chance to add their own style. During her class, the students learned to make homemade ricotta and carrot ravioli, roasted vegetable potpie, cinnamon sugar butternut squash, pizzas, and more.
During the culinary lab, Hoff said the students learned more than just cooking.
“They’re definitely learning teamwork,” Hoff said. “They have to work with different people every day and get along and they’re learning how to plan out a meal and use their critical thinking skills to do so.”
During an architecture class led by Sarah Malette, the students learned how to make a blueprint and size things to scale before building a model house of their own.

We thank the Boys and Girls Club, the Housing Authority, and the Ausherman Family Foundation for funding and supporting this program. We thank our FCC instructors for lending their expertise to the students.



FCC Helps Incoming Students Prepare for College

When asked if they were nervous for their first day of college, three incoming first-year students all gave the same answer: no.

The students – all recent high school graduates – said completing the Partnership to Student Success Program (PASS) helped them gain confidence, familiarize themselves with the FCC campus and services, make new friends, and overall, ease any nerves they had about their first day of college classes. 

“This was a great opportunity to get my brain going before college starts,” said Cassidee Grunwald, a Linganore High School graduate. “It’s nice to feel like I already know a lot about the campus before classes even start.”

The PASS program, which was started in 2011, works to reduce the number of students in developmental courses by providing recent high school graduates who have tested into at least one developmental course the chance to work closely with faculty and staff during their transition into college. It is run by the Office of Multicultural Student Services and led by Director Chianti Blackmon and Assistant Director Persis Johnson.

The program starts with a two-week summer session during which students work on their reading, writing, and math skills and participate in workshops on career exploration and test taking skills. They also take part in team building projects that connect them to services on campus. At the end of the session, students are able to retake placement tests and register for the fall semester. 

Throughout the year, participants will continue to meet with their PASS advisor monthly to develop goals, track their progress in classes, and discuss any issues they are having as a new college student. They will also participate in continuing workshops and are encouraged to become actively engaged with campus events and activities.

For Middletown resident Kaylee Shipley, the program helped her get ready for the academic rigors of college.

“The program was a way to find out what college assignments are like, and see that I could do them,” Kaylee said. “I also really enjoyed getting support and advice from faculty on how to be successful in college.”

Amy Lee, Associate Professor of English, is one of those faculty members and has been involved with the PASS program since its beginning. One of the students in the very first class now has his master’s degree, she said. Getting to work with these students each year inspires her.

“At the start of each class, I have students introduce themselves and state their academic and career goals,” Professor Lee said. “I am always left speechless since their diverse and noble answers remind me of the reason I am so invested in teaching at FCC—these remarkable students are the future. This year’s group is no exception—this is a special group of students.”

The Foundation generously provided these students with a scholarship to use for the fall semester. If they stay committed to the PASS program and earn good grades, they will also receive a spring semester scholarship.

Professor Lee said the program is successful each year because of the work ethic of the students and the staff and services at FCC that support them.

“The hard work, dedication, and passion from the Office of Multicultural Student Services as well as countless other administrators, faculty, staff members, and student workers involved in the program offer a glimpse into what makes our students successful at FCC and beyond,” she said.