Father, Daughter share college experience, graduate summa cum laude

“Dad, if you don’t watch it, I’m going to graduate before you.”  These were the words of Tim Tice’s daughter, Mikaila, not too long ago.  Twelve years ago, while simultaneously working full-time and raising two young kids at the time, Tice made the decision to enroll at Garrett College.  Planning for one or two classes a semester, he was on track to finish a two-year degree in approximately six years.

A few years into starting classes, Tice began a new job, the kids were getting older, and life became busier.  He found himself procrastinating on completing the credits.  His daughter was going to be right.

He clearly remembers his response: “That won’t happen”.

Remarkably, it was Mikaila’s upcoming graduation looming on the horizon that pushed him to finish.  The end result: a once-in-a-lifetime moment for both father and daughter – a shared college commencement.  Yes, college.

“In some ways, it almost felt like I shouldn’t have been there at the same time as her.  I didn’t want it to be about me,” Tice stated.  “It was very special to share the moment, and I’m very proud of her and what she accomplished.  While we are in different places in our lives, with different short-term goals, it was a neat experience to graduate together.”

Appreciating how rare of an opportunity it may be to graduate college with one of your parents, Mikaila was honored to share such a special day with her dad.

“It was actually pretty exciting!” she exclaimed.  “Dad may have been worried about taking attention away from me, but in actuality, it felt like I got more attention since I was now not just a girl graduating, but the girl who was graduating with her dad!”

They also shared in another moment at commencement.  Out of this year’s graduating class of 102 members, five graduated summa cum laude (with highest honors).  Tim and Mikaila were both recognized with this achievement.

Mikaila was also honored for the highest grade-point average among graduates completing 60 or more credit hours at Garrett College at commencement.

With recently earning her associate of arts in teaching degree in elementary education/special education, she plans to attend Frostburg State University this fall to pursue her bachelor’s degree, followed by a master’s degree, in elementary education.

“I’m following in my mother’s footsteps,” Tice said.  She shared that her mother also attended GC and FSU on the way to obtaining a master’s degree in elementary education.

“Garrett was a no-brainer for me; I knew I wanted to be a teacher from the start and I would receive the Garrett County Scholarship,” noted Tice.  “If you are graduating from high school and live in Garrett County, take advantage of the two tuition-free years at Garrett!

“Whether you know what career path you want to follow or not, Garrett is a great place to explore your strengths and passions,” she said.

Mikaila was able to do just that through the support and guidance of Tim Foster, GC’s professor of mathematics, as part of her elementary math class.  She took part in instructing the mathematics portion of the “College and Me” program held at the college’s McHenry campus during her last two semesters.

Foster was very impressed with Mikaila in his teacher education classes, in which she had the highest grade-point average.

“When I had the opportunity to see Mikaila teach the fifth graders in the “College and Me” program it was sheer delight,” Foster said.  “Her concern for student learning is a driving force that will make her an outstanding teacher.  I hope she continues to teach in Garrett County.”

“The program gave me more experience teaching children and allowed me to gain a better grasp of what effective leadership and communication looks like,” Mikaila noted.  “So many of the classes and professors gave me more of a passion for learning and a greater confidence in my ability to teach, lead, and succeed.”

In addition to Foster, she also credits Dr. John Taylor, GC’s assistant professor of education, for their guidance, support, and pushing her towards the future.

“Particularly, I want to thank them (Taylor and Foster) for always being such great resources, mentors, and supporters as I tackled each challenge at Garrett and looked ahead towards the future,” Mikaila said.  “They believed in me even when I did not always believe in myself, and I cannot thank them enough for that.”

Dr. Taylor spoke highly of Mikaila and how she exemplifies all of the genuine attributes and characteristics one would expect out of a future educator.

“A true teacher is someone who is competent, caring, committed, and personable.  All of these words describe Mikaila Tice,” noted Taylor.  “The greatest recommendation I can give Mikaila is that I would have liked for my sons to have had her as a teacher.  Her future students will be very lucky to have such a wonderful educator.”

Foster had the opportunity to instruct both Tim and Mikaila in math classes at GC.

“The family is hard-working and dedicated to their education,” he said.  “I wish we had more students like them.”

For Tim, Garrett’s in-county tuition, online options, and a close proximity to home (Grantsville) enabled him to earn his associate of applied science degree in business and information technology/business management & entrepreneurship.

“My wife sacrificed the most in the early days so I could attend class and/or commit time to online classes,” he stated. “Being a student at GC has broadened my life and learning experiences.  Everyone with whom I interacted at Garrett was very helpful and pleasant.

“Cissy VanSickle was very helpful in the Financial Aid office, sometimes getting grants for me that I didn’t know were available and I hadn’t requested.”

There are scholarships and grants available for those returning to school beyond the traditional 18 to 25 year old range.

“Many start a college career and something happens such as “life” and school has to take a back seat.  It’s never too late to get back on track,” stated VanSickle, GC’s director of financial aid.  “Contact your college or colleges, ask for a degree audit and determine what it would take for you to finish a degree even if it is not the same degree you started earlier in life.

“A lot of times as they say in competitive trail riding, “to finish is to win”, VanSickle noted.

As Tim was seeking a degree in a field related to his work, Dr. Qing Yuan, GC’s dean of academic affairs, was instrumental and facilitated a way for Tim to earn credits towards his degree, through GC’s life experience assessment program.

“I was able to present my work experience as qualification for the final three credits I needed to graduate,” he stated.

Realizing others may be walking in the same shoes as he was nearly 12 years ago, Tice encourages individuals to consider the opportunities that exist around them.

“Dream, but also be practical.  That may include getting a degree, or it may mean focusing on learning a skilled trade in addition to or instead of a degree,” he said.  “When it comes to your job or career, it’s great to do what you love doing, but it’s better to do something that, not only pays your bills, but also enables you to have financial independence and liberty.”

Spoken from the words of a future teacher, Mikaila says one will never regret the learning that is experienced, the friendships that are built, or the memories that are made.

“Sometimes it can be easy to focus on the areas in which we fail, but I have found that when we are willing to look beyond our shortcomings, work hard, and step out of our comfort zones, we tend to surprise ourselves and achieve more than we thought we could.”