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First Lady Visits HCC, Encourages High School Students to Reach Higher

President Hetherington and First Lady Michelle Obama
First Lady Michelle Obama and HCC President Kate Hetherington respond to a question during a panel discussion at Howard Community College.

As part of her Reach Higher initiative, First Lady Michelle Obama visited Howard Community College on Thursday, September 17.

“We’re fortunate enough to live in a country where you have so many options for pursuing your education beyond high school,” said First Lady Michelle Obama during the event. “Community colleges are one of those phenomenal choices, and career and technical education is just amazing.”

The day began with a student-led tour of the emergency medical services suite in the Health Sciences Building. Reema Halboni, who serves as a student ambassador for admissions events at the college, introduced Mrs. Obama and five Howard County high school seniors to paramedic student Diego Esmolo, who talked about his education and showed off the ambulance used for training. Halboni also introduced cardiovascular technology student Jaheda Hanif, who demonstrated the state-of-the-art technology she uses to practice her skills in the classroom.

The day featured a panel discussion moderated by Essence magazine’s Lauren Williams. Howard Community College President Kate Hetherington joined Mrs. Obama, Howard County General Hospital President Steve Snelgrove, and HCC nursing student Trecya Jordan on the panel.

“Howard Community College is one of the stars,” said Mrs. Obama at the start of the panel discussion. “The work that is being done here, the level of education, the connection to the hospital just nearby. We went on a tour and just saw some phenomenal training. The students were articulate and clear. They had a clear pathway to what they wanted to do. They were getting real training that could be applied right away.”

High school students from Oakland Mills High School and the Applications and Research Laboratory posed thoughtful questions about the college search and financial aid process to the panelists. For Oakland Mills High School student Esther Asamoah-Frimpong, she wanted to know if there are colleges who will admit students with a lower grade point average (GPA).

“Usually what will happen is that many of the colleges will post a minimum GPA that they’re looking for,” explained Dr. Hetherington, president of Howard Community College. “It’s not solely GPA. They’re looking at other things that you bring as far as your whole package, so I think that’s one thing that you have to be mindful of.”

“Community colleges are open admissions,” continued Dr. Hetherington at the panel. “So basically, the GPA, unless you’re applying for a select program, will not come into play. You can start out at a community college.”  

That’s exactly the path that panelist Trecya Jordan after graduating from Long Reach High School. As she shared with the high school students, she didn’t have a strong GPA, but she knew she could go to Howard Community College and turn her academics around. After five years at HCC, taking prerequisite courses and sometimes attending part time, she will graduate with a nursing degree in May.

“Best profession ever,” remarked Jordan during the panel. “It’s fun, and you learn something new every day.”

Currently in her clinical training at Howard County General Hospital, Jordan enjoyed the opportunity to share her story with the First Lady and with fellow panelist Steven Snelgrove, president of Howard County General Hospital. Snelgrove hopes many of the county’s high school students will follow Jordan’s example and finding employment at the hospital or in health care fields.

“Health care will be with you your entire life,” said Snelgrove. “There is going to be a lot of jobs with the baby boomers coming in and retiring… There are going to be tremendous opportunities for you to stay in your own community where you grew up—amazing community—and work at your local hospital. We’d love to have you.”

The final question at the panel discussion came from Oakland Mills High School student Mariam Kabbara who wanted to know what tips the First Lady and the President give to their daughters about college.

The First Lady’s advice to high school seniors: “This is a time in your life where you feel pressure and you feel like everything is weighing on you, and I know you all are tired. But this, too, will pass. And you guys are going to be fine. Just as I said earlier, make sure you have a plan. And you’ve got to plan for life, too.”

As the event concluded, the First Lady greeted each of the high school and college students in attendance, making this tour of Howard Community College an experience the students will never forget.

For the written remarks of the panel discussion, click here  or watch it online. News coverage of the First Lady’s visit includes the Baltimore Sun and WBAL TV.

For more photos of the event, visit the college’s Flickr photostream. For a recap of the event as seen through social media, visit

Topics: Announcements
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