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A mother and daughter crossed the stage together at Harford Community College’s sixty-first annual Commencement ceremony on May 23. Dr. Dianna Phillips, President of Harford Community College, conferred degrees to both Giavanna (Gia) Tserkis and her mother Christina Tserkis at the ceremony. “I am so thrilled, but by no means did I want to take the spotlight from her (Gia). This is fun for me,” Christina said.
Christina returned to college as part of the One Step Away program, supported by the Maryland Higher Education Commission, that helps a student with 45 or more college-level credits through the re-admission process, schedules them for classes, and assists with the financial aid process.
Christina previously attended Harford, but left for an employment offer she couldn’t pass up as well as transportation issues. But she was only one course shy of earning a degree. Academic Advisor George Budelis contacted Christina, and worked diligently to encourage her to return. The only class she still needed was American History, and it was available online.
As a medical coordinator for radiology general anesthesia scheduling at Johns Hopkins Hospital’s downtown campus, she was nervous about finding time to study with the hours she worked. But she saw her daughter working and attending college, so she decided that was no excuse.
Back in the day, Christina and her husband took a few classes together; sometimes Gia would visit campus with them. Christina was pleased with the staff and the classmates she met along the way and had positive experiences with both online and face-to-face classes. She and her husband were happy knowing that Gia would begin her college experience at Harford. She added, “I am so glad I had the opportunity to attend and to see my daughter blossom. This was more than a community college – this was a true eye-opening experience for both of us.”
Christina, who received an Associate of Applied Sciences in Business Management degree, feels that it’s a true accomplishment. “Completing a degree shows you have determination to finish what you began.” For those considering returning to college, she says, “There is nothing to lose and actually more to gain than you expect.”
Daughter Gia is a real go-getter who is involved in a wide variety of activities at Harford. She is currently serving as the President of the Student Government Association. Last summer, she was a student orientation leader and said, “I helped facilitate orientations for new students over the summer, providing them with the tools they needed to navigate campus and successfully determine what courses to take.” In 2018, she participated in HCC’s Alternative Winter Break in Texas and Alternative Spring Break in New Orleans, helping those affected by tragic events such as hurricanes and floods to rebuild their neighborhoods and livelihoods.
In 2018 she braved a snowstorm’s aftermath to testify in Annapolis in support of the recently enacted Maryland Community College Promise Scholarships, a program to help eligible students attend community college. Gia shared her story because “I believe education should be accessible to everyone regardless of income in order for us to have a competent and highly skilled, employable workforce.”
Last July, Gia was sworn in as a student commissioner for the Maryland Higher Education Commission. “I am a voting member of the Commission with responsibilities of voting to pass or deny pieces of legislation to the Governor’s Office with respect to all Maryland higher education institutions. I serve as a liaison to the Student Advisory Council to take their feedback to the Commission, serving as the student voice for Maryland.”
In addition to her classes and many activities, Gia has been working as an administrative assistant for the Executive Leadership Team at Harford for more than a year. Being so involved has been beneficial. “The connections I have made have put my foot in the door, just one step closer to my future career.”
She is especially grateful for the support she received from Dr. Stephanie Hallock and Assistant Professor Anne Shugars. “Both of those women helped me not only find my true purpose in life, but they are perfect examples of strong, successful women, which continues to motivate me daily.”
All of her hard work has paid off. Gia received two scholarships at Harford and was recently awarded a $62,000 academic scholarship to complete her bachelor’s degree at Notre Dame of Maryland University. She plans to study political science and pre-law with a minor in peace and justice studies and to pursue a career as an attorney of appeals and civil rights law.
Gia, who was awarded an Associate of Arts in Political Science degree, offers this advice: “Do not be afraid to ask for help, your health comes before anything, and always leave a lasting impression with those you meet. You never know where the wind will take you.”
Congratulations, Gia and Christina. You make us proud!
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