Governor, surgeon to honor North Carroll graduate

June 16, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

Amanda Gail "Mandy" Kent needed a few extra tickets to her North Carroll High School graduation, coming up Sunday.

She sees nothing unusual about her guest list including Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Dr. Benjamin Carson, a renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital neurosurgeon.

The 10 tickets allotted each senior were just enough for her family, but she easily found passes for the governor and her favorite physician.

"Of course, I would ask my friends and the people who are important in my life," said Ms. Kent, 18. "The governor is a good friend of mine, whom I have known since I was 6. And I would not have made it to graduation without Dr. Carson."

Since she was born with spina bifida, a congenital defect that can result in partial paralysis, Ms. Kent has undergone countless operations on her spine. She doesn't let problems of mobility deter her. She has accomplished as much from her motorized wheelchair as her classmates.

"I have problems with my back and legs, but I deal with them, and I will deal with them the rest of my life," she said. "I don't let it stop me."

As the state poster child for the March of Dimes from 1983 to 1985, Ms. Kent met then-Mayor Schaefer of Baltimore. The two became fast friends, she said, and have maintained contact ever since.

"We have done a lot of things together," said Ms. Kent. "Really, he has seen me grow up. He has been part of my life and always wants to know what I am doing."

The governor and Ms. Kent have exchanged letters, cards and phone calls for years. Whenever she was hospitalized, she could count on a message from the governor. She said he liked updates on her activities.

During the 1994 legislative session in Annapolis, Ms. Kent served a term as a student page and had a few opportunities to meet with governor. "While I was working in the State House, I could see how hard the governor works, but he still made time to chat with me," she said.

Ms. Kent has kept in contact with Dr. Carson, too. "He has helped to keep me healthy," she said.

The governor and the doctor have both accepted Ms. Kent's invitation and will be at Western Maryland College's Gill Center when 235 North Carroll graduates cross the stage.

Although the governor is not acting in any official capacity, Ms. Kent has asked him to confer her diploma -- a task that usually falls to school board members.

NCHS principal Gregory Eckles said: "The governor and Dr. Carson will be on stage. We would like for both of them to give Mandy her diploma."

The two guests also are invited to a graduation party at the Kent home in Hampstead.

"It depends on their schedules, but they know they are welcome," Ms. Kent said.

In September, Ms. Kent will enroll at St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, N.C. She said she hopes that, with a political science degree, she can follow her mentor to Annapolis.

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