A Trio of Commencement Achievements Cap UMUC Experience for Jermaine MontgomeryUniversity of Maryland University College Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer Alan Drimmer knew what he was talking about when he introduced graduating student Jermaine Montgomery at the university’s morning Winter Commencement ceremony on Dec. 15 as a man of many talents.
Moments before, Montgomery, about to graduate with a Master of Science in Management with a Criminal Justice Management specialization, had performed a powerful rendition of the National Anthem for fellow graduates and the thousands of family members, friends, faculty, university staff and other supporters gathered at the Xfinity Center at College Park, Maryland, to cheer them on. Now, he was about to take the stage for a second time that morning—the chosen spokesperson representing the graduating class—to deliver the student commencement address to his graduating colleagues.
Being chosen once to represent the entire graduating class as student commencement speaker is a singular honor. But, in part, what makes Montgomery’s story remarkable, as Drimmer described it, is that he has been chosen to serve as student commencement speaker twice: He delivered the student address at spring commencement in 2015 when he earned his Bachelor of Science, also in Criminal Justice.
Those unfamiliar with Montgomery—or of narrow viewpoint—might think that scoring this metaphorical hat trick proves that the Baltimore resident, raised in a one-parent household that relied on public assistance to “get by,” and was once told he needed special education, had beaten the odds.
Those who know Montgomery would say that luck had nothing to do with it; that such a characterization disregards the mettle of the man who, from an early age, envisioned a positive destiny for himself and charged forward with the grit, determination and willing spirit to undertake the hard work needed to realize that destiny.
“It’s not by chance I stand before you today,” Montgomery told graduates in 2015. “Whatever your challenge in life, it will yield to hard work and perseverance.”
His mother served as a strong role model. She raised Montgomery and his brother in a home full of love while working two—and sometimes three—jobs, though some public assistance was still needed to stretch housed resources far enough to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.
Montgomery said his mother made it a point to have him and his brother volunteer at a food pantry, so they would grow up understanding the importance of helping others. They internalized that lesson well.
His brother is a paramedic. Montgomery, who has worked with the Maryland Transportation Authority for six years and is now a corporal, said he is blessed to have the opportunity to do what he was destined to do—to protect those in need and help others that are lost.
He was the first in his class of cadets to be promoted because of the bachelor’s degree he earned from UMUC in 2015.
He had to overcome a few obstacles to get there, Montgomery said. “I started and stopped at the University of Maryland in College Park not once, but twice. I attended a community college and then stopped again. But I never waivered in pursuing my dream of becoming a college graduate.”
And almost 20 years after he graduated from high school—he realized his dream. Education can break the chains of generational poverty, remove barriers and forge legacies, he said. “Education is a gateway to opportunity. If you have the will and desire to get an education, doors will open for you."
Montgomery, who describes himself as his own biggest critic, said he is constantly pushing himself to do better. He hopes to be Maryland Transit Authority police chief one day.
As he strives toward that goal, he told his fellow summer-fall 2018 graduates, he said his destiny is “to be the man my 4-year-old daughter will be proud of . . . to grow old with my wife . . . to never be on public assistance again, to make a meaningful impact on my community, and to accomplish what was previously said to be impossible while extending a hand for others slim on opportunity yet full of hope and belief to do the same.”