WESTMINSTER — Without hesitation, Tricia Arnold will tell you that Carroll Community College was not her first choice to pursue a higher education.
She wanted to go to Towson State University but was not accepted.
"It's been a blessing in disguise," said Arnold, who graduated from CCC with an associate's degree in general studies. "For me, it's been like having another family. The administration, staff and facultyreally go out of their way to help students. They're out to see everybody succeed."
By anybody's account, Arnold, one of 180 students to graduate from one of the two-year programs at CCC this year, has succeeded.
During her two years at CCC, the Francis Scott Key High School graduate has served as president of the Student Government Association, which has been active in planning many campus activities, as news editor of the college newspaper, The Spectrum, and on the editorial board of its magazine, Bittersweet.
Arnold will not leave her student government post until fall.
Even though her student daysat CCC are over, Arnold remains concerned about a possible tuition increase -- tuition is $37 per credit hour but could rise by $1 or $2 to raise additional revenue -- and about the lack of additional county dollars for the college's annual budget.
"(Student government) has been giving its input," she said. "We want what's best for students."
In addition, Arnold, the youngest of nine children, has been amath tutor and works part time as a student aide at the college's Continuing Education and Community Services Department.
The Class of1991 is the first to graduate at the new campus, which opened off Washington Road in Westminster last summer. Arnold, like other class members, began her CCC education in former public school buildings, which students and educators have described as not the best environment to encourage a college education.
The 19-year-old plans to pursue a bachelor's degree in elementary education at Towson State University this fall. She has received a $1,000 scholarship from CCC to continue her education.
"I've known her for two years as a student employee," said Anne Koenig, office manager of the Continuing Education and Community Services Department. "It never ceased to amaze me how shecould handle a part-time job and a full course load and excel in allareas."
Arnold did and continues clerical work in the office.
"Her enthusiastic work will be highly missed in this office," Koenig said. She's one in a million. We're going to keep her as long as we can -- until the very last minute."
Arnold said her desire to teachstems from her love of children.
"I really want to work with kids," she said. "I think this generation needs so much guidance. I wouldlike to be a strong influence on these kids."
Her interest in children is evident. She spent her weeklong vacation from her CCC job helping coordinate play days for seventh-graders at some of the county's middle schools. The play days are free time from academics and involve individual and team athletic events.
"I love sports, anything athletic," she said. "This was a good chance to interact with kids."
She has chosen to pursue her bachelor's degree at Towson State because the university is cheaper than many other state colleges, is close to home and two of her five sisters graduated from there.
Although her courses at CCC were limited in the teacher-education curriculum, Arnold said she believes she is well prepared to transfer to a four-year college. Her course work included basic English, history and math.
CCC, though, is beefing up its teacher-education curriculum.Courses previously offered at Catonsville Community College, CCC's parent institution, will be available at the Westminster campus.
"Iwould definitely recommend CCC," Arnold said. "I think high school graduates should consider it. It's not just a community college. It's a college that can benefit you the first two years with the cheaper tuition and individual attention. It's been tremendous for me."