News from Montgomery
900 Hungerford Drive, Suite 200, Rockville, MD 20850
Date: May 20, 2004 (04-54)
PHOTO EDITORS: A high-resolution image to accompany this story is available at /news/highresolutionimages/04/dembnicki.jpg
Despite Initial Need for
Remedial Classes and a Delay for Military Duty, Gaithersburg Man
Persists to Graduate from Montgomery College with Honors
After graduating from high school, Greg Dembnicki headed off to college like many of his classmates, but that’s where the similarities ended. He enrolled at Montgomery College-Germantown, where his initial assessment testing indicated that his English and math skills were not at college-level. To improve his skills, Dembnicki took developmental classes and worked closely with his professors.
“Professors at Montgomery College are helpful and care about students,” said Dembnicki. “They spend a lot of time with you, helping you learn the material. Professor Jack Suruda taught me how to write well.”
After just one semester of developmental courses, Dembnicki’s hard work paid off and he was able to start taking college-level courses. But, in the midst of his achievement, Dembnicki, a Gaithersburg resident, made a decision that changed his future – he joined the Army National Guard and one semester later, he was at Fort Benning undergoing basic training.
Shortly after Dembnicki returned to Montgomery College, the nation became the victim of terrorist attacks on September 11. The National Guard activated Dembnicki and his education was put on hold. For months, Dembnicki focused on guarding a military base.
In the fall of 2002, Dembnicki returned to Montgomery College. While determined to finish his studies and receive an associate’s degree, he called the transition from military life back to academia “tough.” He started slowly with two classes to get back up to speed, but before long, Dembnicki was again a full-time college student.
“There’s a certain amount of tenacity in Greg’s personality,” said Harry Zarin, a Montgomery College counselor and associate professor. “Despite being called up for active duty, he did not get discouraged about his education. He came back. He matured. He asked for help when he needed it. He worked hard to persevere. He was very successful academically.”
Today, Dembnicki graduated with honors at Montgomery College’s 57th Annual Commencement ceremony. More than 1,800 students were eligible this year to receive associate’s degrees and certificates. The ceremony, held outdoors on the Rockville Campus athletic field, honored students from each of the community college’s three campuses – at Germantown, Rockville, and Takoma Park. Commencement also honored the graduates from the College’s Workforce Development and Continuing Education apprenticeship program at the Gudelsky Institute for Technical Education. The keynote speaker was H. Patrick Swygert, president of Howard University in Washington, D.C. Other speakers included the College’s four Board of Trustees scholars – Joey Larman from the Rockville Campus, Pamela Puckett from the Germantown Campus, Olateriba Oyegoke from the Takoma Park Campus, and David Rischer from Workforce Development and Continuing Education.
Dembnicki called his graduation experience “great” and “exciting” because he finally earned his degree after almost five years of off-and-on study. If it was not for Montgomery College, Dembnicki admitted that he “probably would’ve flunked out of college” and “wouldn’t have had the opportunity to work on the fundamentals.” In fact, Dembnicki’s academics improved so dramatically after those first developmental classes that he finished Montgomery College as a member of the Phi Theta Kappa national honor society.
This accomplishment inspires him as he looks ahead to his next step in life. Dembnicki plans to transfer to Towson University, where he will pursue a bachelor’s degree in history. Ultimately, he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and become an agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He says, “The education that I received at Montgomery College is the foundation for my future.”
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Montgomery College is a public, open admissions community college with campuses in Germantown, Rockville, and Takoma Park, plus workforce development and continuing education centers in Gaithersburg, Wheaton and Silver Spring. The College serves nearly 50,000 students a year, through both credit and non-credit programs, in more than 100 areas of study.