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Alums Reflect on How Honors Program Propelled Future Success

A photo of Rouse representatives with Duncan the Dragon.

Kimberley Gillett, HCC graduate and alum of the Rouse Scholars honors program says that encouraging faculty gave her the confidence she needed to apply and be accepted at Smith College, where she earned her Master’s degree in social work.

“[The Rouse Program] was awesome. I loved the connections to the teachers; we had such talented professors who took us under their wings and helped us see what was possible.”

Gillett now works as a social worker in a high school during the day, with private practice in the evenings. Like many alums who gathered for a recent celebration of the program’s 25th anniversary, she credits Rouse Scholars with developing leadership and life skills that put her academic career on a trajectory toward success.

Chiara D’Amore, a 1999 graduate, attended the 25th anniversary celebration.

“The one-on-one relationships with teachers really helped me clarify what I wanted to do. I got great hands-on experience in environmental science and I am so appreciative of the faculty and mentorships. I transferred to Chapel Hill and honed in on environmental work there, earning a Ph.D. in sustainability and education.”

Nick DiStefano, who graduated in May with an associate degree in pre-pharmacy, said Rouse advisors helped him tremendously when he changed paths on areas of study.

“I entered a secondary education major in mathematics, but as I continued through the honors program I found myself going a different direction,” he said. “The Rouse advisors helped me with getting on a path to my future career, and I’m very excited to attend the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy in the fall as part of the class of 2022.

“I don’t think I would have gotten to this point without their help.”

Kelsey Tyson also completed her pre-pharmacy associate degree at HCC in 2011 and then transferred to pharmacy doctoral program. Now a pharmacist, she recalls the close community of students and faculty in the program.

“Some of my most memorable moments were Rouse retreats that brought me out of my comfort zone. We once went to a camp with this massive tree swing. I was terrified, but faced my fears and had new experiences.”

The Rouse Scholars program, established in 1992, was the first honors program at Howard Community College. Since then, the college has added the STEM Scholars program for students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, as well as the Schoenbrodt Scholars program offering honors experiences to non-traditional age students and students attending part-time. Following the Rouse model, all of HCC’s honors programs include rigorous curriculum, leadership development, and provide opportunities for academic enrichment such as service learning and study abroad.

Recent graduate, Brittany Nixon, feels that Jim Rouse’s vision of a diverse community working towards a better future is alive in the Rouse Scholars program.

“The professors genuinely care for us and want us to succeed. From day one I felt like I was a part of something. My two years in the Rouse program changed my life for the better and gave me some of my best friends.”

Nixon will attend University of Maryland, College Park in the fall, studying mechanical engineering at the Clark School of Engineering.

Since its founding in 1992, approximately 900 students have graduated from the Rouse program – and have transferred to four year schools. Many remain connected to the college, and each other years later. Zach Bennett and Katie Loveless, who met in the Rouse program, got married in June. Emily Long and Alex Taylor, also Rouse graduates, also met while in the program and are planning to be married later this year.

The Taylors say, “Rouse was probably two of the best years of our lives…one of the best decisions we ever made socially and educationally. Rouse brought us together and propelled us into our academic career.”

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Topics: Campus Life
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