News from Montgomery College

900 Hungerford Drive, Suite 200, Rockville, MD 20850 

Date: May 21, 2003 (03-48)
Contact: Steve Simon, 240-567-7952

[NOTE TO MEDIA: Montgomery College’s 2003 Commencement will be held on Friday, May 23 at 10 a.m., rain or shine, under a tent on the athletic field at the Rockville, Maryland campus, 51 Mannakee Street, Rockville.]

International Student Overcomes Language Barrier, Financial Hardship and Civil War to Graduate from Montgomery College
Ivory Coast Native among More than 1,400 Graduates this Year 

            At the age of 18, Gilles-Arnaud Bleu-Laine packed his bags, and left his parents and his home behind.  Bleu-Laine grew up in lvory Coast, a West African country, but his parents believed he would find better schools in America.  On Friday, May 23, Bleu-Laine will receive his associate of science degree at Montgomery College’s 56th annual commencement ceremony in Rockville, Maryland.

More than 1,400 graduates earned associate degrees or certificates from the community college’s three campuses – Takoma Park, Rockville, and Germantown – or through one of the college’s Workforce Development and Continuing Education apprenticeship programs.  The event begins at 10 a.m., rain or shine, under a tent on the Rockville Campus athletic field. 

“Whatever happens in my life, I have a degree and Montgomery College gave it to me,” said Bleu-Laine, with pride. 

To receive his degree, Bleu-Laine overcame many obstacles in his path.   First, Bleu-Laine struggled with the English language, realizing too late that his classes in Ivory Coast were inadequate.  Second, civil war broke out in his home country.  For eight months, rebel forces have kept Ivory Coast in a state of turmoil.  As Bleu-Laine tried to concentrate on his studies, he learned rebels seized and vandalized the family home in the west.  His parents stayed protected in the family’s second home, but their financial support to Bleu-Laine was cut off. 

Bleu-Laine turned to Professor Don Day and Mary Ann Beatty, Dean of Student Development, for help.  Both Professor Day and Dean Beatty urged Bleu-Laine to continue learning as they investigated scholarship options.  Ultimately, a Montgomery College Foundation scholarship paid for his final semester at Montgomery College.

“It really was a big help because I didn’t know how to pay,” Bleu-Laine recalled when asked about his scholarship.

While the scholarship enabled him to afford his education, Bleu-Laine credits Professor Don Day, Montgomery College-Rockville professor of engineering and physics, for teaching him the excitement and love of learning.  Shortly after the two men met, Bleu-Laine switched his major to electrical engineering.  The College’s smaller class sizes provided opportunity for Bleu-Laine and Day to talk and learn about one another.  From there, a friendship developed.  Bleu-Laine feels that Day supported him like a father. 

With his own parents in Africa, Bleu-Laine found a new family at Montgomery College.  He recalled a class where the professor inquired about which students were born and raised in the United States.  Only two or three students raised their hands.  At that point, Bleu-Laine said he knew that he would not have to worry about living in America.  Montgomery College -- Maryland’s most culturally diverse community college, with students from approximately 175 nations – made Bleu-Laine feel “at home.” 

At Montgomery College, Bleu-Laine is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society.  This year, he led both the Engineering Club and the Robotic Club as president.  But, on May 23, Bleu-Laine’s time “at home” will end.  After commencement, Bleu-Laine plans to take classes at the University of Maryland during the summer.  In the fall, he transfers to Georgia Tech where he will continue to study electrical engineering. 

Despite a cease fire in the country’s civil war, the future of Ivory Coast remains uncertain.  For that reason, Bleu-Laine’s own future is unknown, but he does know one thing for sure -- he will succeed because he is a Montgomery College graduate.       

Four Students Named Board of Trustees Scholars

During commencement, Montgomery College will honor four other graduates with the College’s top academic award – the 2003 Board of Trustees Scholarship.  College officials selected student to represent each of the three campuses and one student to represent the Gudelsky Institute for Technical Education and the College’s Workforce Development and Continuing Education division.  This year’s Board of Trustees Scholars are: 

§         Craig A. Williams – Workforce Development and Continuing Education
Almost 20 years ago, Williams moved from Jamaica to the United States with his parents. He says his parents’ hard work and determination taught him that anything was possible, including the American dream.  At Montgomery College, he enrolled in the Air Conditioning Contractors of America apprenticeship program. As a result of his training, Mr. Williams, who lives in Silver Spring, is now employed by Presidential Heating and Air Conditioning, as well as the Heating and Cooling department at Home Depot. 

§         Haniee Chung – Rockville Campus
Ms. Chung is president of the Student Senate, president of the Kappa Omega chapter of Phi Theta Kappa honor society, and president of the Korean Club.  As a general studies major, Ms. Chung graduates with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.  Recently, she was named a member of the USA Today’s 2003 All-Maryland First Academic Team and a USAA Collegiate All-American Scholar.  Born in Seoul, Korea, Ms. Chung now resides in Rockville, Maryland.  In her spare time, she plays lead violin at her church.  She plans to continue her education at Georgetown University.  In the future, Ms. Chung wants to lead medical missions into North Korea. 

Carine Nadem – Germantown Campus
Originally from Cameroon, Ms. Nadem left friends and family behind in 1998 for better educational opportunities in America.  A pre-med major from Germantown, she joined the inaugural class of Montgomery College’s selective Biomedical Scholars program and maintained a 4.0 GPA through graduation.  She is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, a member of USA Today’s 2003 All-Maryland First Academic Team and the recipient of a 2003 Jack Kent Cook Foundation Undergraduate Scholarship for her next two years at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.

§         Nkedilim Oraegbu– Takoma Park Campus              
A business major, Ms. Oraegbu graduates with a 3.95 grade point average.  She lives in Silver Spring and is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and the National Dean’s List.  At Montgomery College, Ms. Oraegbu received the Harry Harden, Jr. Black and African American Achievement Award.  She finished her studies in December 2002 and transferred to the University of Maryland.  

Montgomery’s Commencement to be Webcast and Shown on Cable

 Montgomery College will broadcast its 2003 Commencement live on the Internet on Friday, May 23.  Families and friends of the graduates can simply log on to the Montgomery College Web site to watch the day’s festivities unfold. Cable television viewers in Montgomery County can also watch the ceremony, beginning with a pre-commencement show that will start at 9:30 a.m., on Montgomery College Television, cable channel 10.

For more information about the 2003 Commencement or to find out how to view its Webcast, log on to the Montgomery College Web site at and look under “Hot Topics,” or call the Montgomery College Special Events Office at 240-567-7489.  To request accommodations or assistance needed to participate fully in the event, contact the Office of Disability Support Services at 240-567-5058; TTY: 301-294-9672. 

#  #  #

Back to News