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Ready for Life's Next Chapter
By Mary Gail Hare, Baltimore Sun Reporter, June 1, 2008
When she chose a small women's college in Baltimore, Jennifer E. Hale never imagined how the next four years would broaden her horizons and transform her outlook on life from bashful to bold.
"In high school, I was a homebody, always afraid to branch out," said the North Harford High graduate.
Her attitude changed on a pre-admission tour of the College of Notre Dame of Maryland.
"I fell in love with this college," she said. "The minute I set foot on campus, the feeling that I could succeed there overcame me."
She enrolled in the fall of 2004 and would eventually study abroad, volunteer at an orphanage in Mexico, teach English for a Latino ministry in Baltimore and help build houses for impoverished residents of south Texas.
"Notre Dame taught me to embrace changes, not fear them," she said.
The past four years have been filled with change for the 21-year-old White Hall resident, who pursued a double major in communication arts and Spanish, with a minor in leadership and social change, and never fell off the dean's list. As a freshman, she put together "a hope list" of what she wanted to accomplish before graduation.
"I managed to check off everything on that list and to do even more," she said.
She studied in Spain for a semester, spent two spring breaks working with orphaned girls in Mexico and needy Texas families. She found time during her studies to volunteer at St. Ambrose Outreach Center, the Educated Based Latino Outreach and the Hispanic Apostolate, all in Baltimore.
As college graduation neared, her classmates asked her to give the senior luncheon address, a request she considered an honor.
"Leaving Notre Dame is bittersweet," she said. "But we are all ready to start new chapters."
Her speech retraced her college years, detailing how the shy girl overcame her fears and emerged from her shell.
"Notre Dame showed me that it is important to voice your opinion, even if it's not mainstream," she said. "This college shaped me into the woman I am today."
She graduated magna cum laude May 24 and began working Tuesday at SAIC Corp. in Abingdon, a science and engineering company where she interned last semester.
"I am prepared for life with a great foundation on which to build a professional career," she said.
The Hale family held a double graduation celebration last weekend, marking Jennifer's accomplishments as well those of her younger sister Becky, another North Harford High alumna.
"She is going to Towson," said Jennifer. "I could not talk her out of it."
With Jennifer's employer clamoring for help, she has postponed that traditional senior trip. But she sees travel on the horizon along with deep ties to her alma mater. She has already joined the alumnae advisory board and has promised to work with next year's seniors.
"It won't be the same, but I will still be around on this campus," she said.