Success has many meanings for the Class of '95. It can't be gauged solely by SAT scores or class rankings. For some of this year's area high school graduates, success has meant coping with a foreign culture. For others, it has meant accepting family responsibilities, or balancing extracurricular activities with academic obligations. For others still, it has meant overcoming learning or physical disabilities.
As graduation ceremonies in the Baltimore area wind up this week, students have much to celebrate. A high school graduation is a landmark moment, a successful passage into one's future. The following profiles pay tribute to success in its many forms, and reveal dreams for the future. Here's to the Class of '95.
Tia Melvin, Bel Air High School, Harford County
Her father is a colonel in the Army and a former professor at the U.S. Military Academy, so Tia Melvin knew what to expect when she accepted an appointment to West Point. "I think I need the discipline," she says. Those are surprising words coming from a young woman who was co-captain of Bel Air High's track team, president of the school's Students Against Drunk Driving chapter, student government representative, first clarinet in the school band, and peer instructional aide, all while maintaining a 3.69 grade-point average. Although women cadets make up only about 10 percent of the enrollment at West Point, Tia is confident that she will be able to handle the challenges. After all, attending West Point is something she has wanted to do since she was in fifth grade.
Vinh Nguyen, Oakland Mills High School, Howard County
Vinh Nguyen considers himself lucky just to be alive. At the age of 16, he was facing conscription in the Vietnamese army, which had imprisoned his father for seven years. Rather than accept this fate, Vinh, along with his father, flung himself into a tiny boat packed with 50 other people and cast off in search of freedom. Several people died on the trip, but after three days the boat washed ashore safely in Indonesia. Vinh and his father were held in a refugee camp for three years. They were granted political asylum in the United States two years ago. When he arrived here to live with his aunt in Columbia, Vinh did not speak English. He entered high school at the 11th-grade level and studied in a program for students for whom English was a second language. His English improved to the point where he was mainstreamed this year, and he responded by getting mostly A's. Vinh is working part time as a clerk at Giant Food, saving money so he can study chemical engineering at Howard Community College this fall. His mother, brother and sister are still in Vietnam, and more than anything, Vinh wants them to come to America. "I miss them so much," he says.
Alvin Fields, Forest Park High School, Baltimore
While many high school graduates will be hitting the beach or lounging around the swimming pool this summer, Alvin Fields will be grunting and groaning his way through basic training at an Army base somewhere. He wouldn't have it any other way. Three years ago, Alvin didn't have any idea what he wanted to do with his life. A friend introduced him to the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC), and since then he has blossomed. Alvin became a committed member of the ROTC drill team at Forest Park, and was in a national competition this spring. His short-term goal is to become a member of the Army Rangers, a specially trained group of soldiers. He eventually wants to become an FBI agent.
Sarah Dyky, Westminster High School, Carroll County
You could say that Sarah Dyky cooked her way through school. She was grand champion in the edible-art category of a 4-H cooking contest last year with a face made of leeks, eggs, ginger, onion and celery. The award was just one of many she has won recently. She also was recently selected as one of Maryland's top youth entrepreneurs by the state Department of Economic and Employment Development. (She operates her own catering business with her sister.) Sarah, who has been baking since she was 3, considers food an art form. She specializes in making creative pastries and desserts, including an award-winning angel food cake. This fall Sarah is headed to Johnson and Wales University in Providence, R.I., to study baking and pastry arts.
Amy Brown, Hereford High School, Harford County