Aaron Wilson and his mother, Kellie Felder, standing on the front porch of their home wearing graduation stoles.

Mother and son both receive diplomas at PGCC Commencement

Published June 27, 2024

This article was featured in the June edition of the Owl Brief newsletter.

As mother and son, Kellie Felder, 46, and Aaron Wilson, 20, have shared many life memories. Now, they can add receiving diplomas from Prince George’s Community College to their list. The pair was among nearly 1,000 students who walked across the stage at Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, during PGCC’s recent 65th Commencement exercises.

“Being a single mother, raising a young African American man in today's society, and graduating with your son is a feeling that I can't even describe,” Felder said. “It was emotional. It was happy tears and happy emotions that we did this together. We pushed each other.”

Wilson was excited to experience college, as well as Commencement, with his mother.

“It made me feel like I graduated with a purpose because my mom wanted to graduate and she wanted me to graduate,” Wilson said. “I felt like I made her proud. At her stressful moments, she's been trying to be there for me during my stressful moments. It was very comforting and special to know that I graduated with her.”

Aaron Wilson and his mother, Kellie Felder, smile with PGCC President Falecia D. Williams in their graduation gear at PGCC Commencement.

Above: Kellie Felder and Aaron Wilson with PGCC President Dr. Falecia D. Williams during Commencement.

Dr. Falecia Williams, president of PGCC, highlighted Felder and Wilson’s story of triumph during her Commencement speech. Felder began her studies to become a Health Navigator at PGCC in 2012, but reduced her classes after being diagnosed with aggressive stage three triple-negative breast cancer.

“I was scared that I wasn't going to be able to finish or I wasn't going to be able to complete my courses,” Felder said. “So, luckily, I had amazing professors that understood.

According to a 2018 study led by a Mayo Clinic geneticist, triple-negative breast cancer accounts for 35 percent of breast cancer diagnoses in African Americans, and it is associated with a high rate of recurrence and poor five-year survival rates.

Despite Felder’s diagnosis, she held on to her higher education and career goals. With almost 20 years of work experience in the medical field, she wanted to advance her career by helping others manage their health care experience.

“Some people don't know a lot about the ins and outs of insurance or understand medical terminology, ” she said. “I always wanted to learn more about helping people, helping my community, and especially the elderly with the evolving health care system."

In addition to taking classes at PGCC, Felder also worked full-time, and provided caregiving for her mother. She credits her family, the professors at PGCC, and the flexibility of the course offerings for her ability to push toward the finish line.

"Professor Stephanie Burke gave me a lot of insight on how I can go from doing health navigation, to a community health worker, to public health,” Felder said. “She was very understanding through everything. She contributed to me completing my studies, but also my son being my cheerleader and motivation.”

Felder’s son, Aaron Wilson, began his mass communications studies at PGCC in 2022. He said he chose PGCC because he wanted an affordable way to ease into college life, as well as the comfort of knowing his mom was close by. He said he’s always had a passion for video and music editing, as well as other creative arts.

“I'm really passionate about graphic design and editing,” Wilson said. “Since middle school, I always wanted to get into editing just to see what it was like. Ever since I got a foothold on how to edit, it just snowballed from there. I have been developing these talents for almost seven or eight years now.”

Wilson said PGCC has been a supportive environment to learn, grow, and develop.

“PGCC is a diverse community college,” Wilson said. “I've met a lot of people and a lot of my friends at the College. I'm so glad I met them, especially the administrators and teachers. The professors have helped me most with trying to balance school and life so that I have a good work-life balance.”

Wilson and Felder look forward to life after PGCC. Wilson plans to continue his education at a local four-year university and Felder is excited to begin a new career in public health or health care management.


 

Dr. Mark Hubley

Published May 3, 2024

This article was featured in the April edition of the PGCC Connect newsletter. Sign up for it here.

In higher education, there are individuals whose dedication, expertise, and leadership serve as guiding lights, illuminating the path for others. Dr. Mark Hubley is one such exemplary teacher and leader at Prince George's Community College. With a commitment to excellence, Dr. Hubley embodies the values of the institution and has made significant contributions to the academic and personal growth of students.

Dr. Hubley, a tenured professor in the Natural Sciences Department, is known for his love of students, passion for teaching, and championing PGCC students. Despite constantly being sought-after to serve on committees and assume leadership roles, Dr. Hubley prioritizes students first. For more than twenty years, he has effectively balanced service to students in the classroom and the greater college community.

In 2010, he became the chair of the Department of Biological Sciences. In 2016, that department merged with the Department of Physical Sciences and Engineering and became the Natural Sciences Department. Dr. Hubley continued to serve as chair through 2019. From 2010 to 2019, the department grew considerably in terms of faculty, the number of students enrolled, courses offered, and class locations. The department played an important role in the successful development of the Academy of Health Sciences, which is the first middle college formed in Maryland.

Dr. Hubley’s leadership style inspired confidence and teamwork in the department, creating an environment where his colleagues thrived. Under his leadership, programs were revised and new courses were created to serve PGCC students better. He also championed faculty excellence and professional development, leading to many faculty achieving tenure and promotion. Faculty in the department have become leaders across campus, playing key roles in the Middle States accreditation reviews, the Faculty Senate, promotion and tenure committees, assessment, and more. Though Dr. Hubley left the position as chair in 2019, his leadership effectiveness is still evident in how his colleagues speak about him—they "love" Mark (as he insists everyone calls him).

Dr. Hubley's influence extends far beyond the confines of his department, and his college-wide collaborations transcend the boundaries of his discipline. His college-wide engagements underscore his commitment to institutional advancement. Additionally, his broad knowledge of his discipline, experience with college operations, and affable personality make him one of the most sought-after members of the faculty to serve on committees and special projects. His success as a faculty leader began early in his career at PGCC when he served as president of the Faculty Organization for two terms from 2006 to 2010. That service established him as a campus leader, and his popularity with Prince George’s Community College faculty continues to shine today. It would require a lot of space to describe all of Dr. Hubley’s contributions to the College, but here are a few highlights: he has served as co-chair of the Academic Council, chair of the General Education Committee, a member of the College-wide Tenure Committee, two terms as the chair of the Promotion and Tenure Appeals Committee, co-chair of the Chairs Council, and a member of the Curriculum Committee.

Dr. Hubley has published articles and books in the areas of biochemistry, anatomy, and physiology. At various conferences, he has presented his work in those areas, along with innovations in classroom instruction. Recently, he has joined with colleagues at national conferences to present the College’s new program in micro-credentials.

Throughout his career, Dr. Hubley has successfully obtained grant funding from sources that include the National Institutes of Health and Merck. However, of all his accomplishments, Dr. Hubley says his greatest ones are the positive connections he made with students across thirty-five years of teaching. In any role he is serving the College, PGCC’s Core Commitment of Students First has always been Dr. Hubley’s core commitment. Dr. Hubley’s love for his students is reflected in the comments his students have made in their reviews of his performance.

Dr. Mark Hubley epitomizes the quintessential academic leader. His foundation is a deep knowledge and passion for his field, and for over thirty-five years, he has been dedicated to transferring that knowledge and passion to his students. Throughout his career, he has been a scholar, a biologist, and an educator. He is deeply familiar with the process of research, understands how to analyze data, and makes informed decisions. Throughout his time at PGCC, Dr. Hubley has formed relationships with his colleagues and put himself forward as a leader—a leader who has not been afraid of challenges but a leader who has demonstrated success in uniting those he serves and helping them to flourish. Dr. Hubley inspires those who seek excellence in academia.

As we celebrate Community College Month, let us recognize the invaluable contributions of institutions like Prince George’s Community College in providing accessible, affordable, and high-quality education. Additionally, we want to acknowledge and honor outstanding faculty members like Dr. Mark Hubley, whose dedication and leadership enrich the educational experience and shape the future of students. Through their efforts, community colleges continue to serve as beacons of opportunity, empowering individuals to achieve their academic and professional goals.


 

Culinary arts grad caters to the allergen-friendly community

Published March 6, 2024

She is twenty-one years old and has never tasted chocolate. Born with over eight different allergies, Prince George’s Community College culinary arts student Royal Severe found a way to turn her life’s challenge into purpose, passion, and profit.

“Not being able to eat cake or any ice cream because you’re always worried about cross-contact with other foods built up an interest,” Chef Royal said. “I wanted to know what chocolate, cake, and frosting tasted like.”

With life-threatening allergic reactions to wheat, soy, eggs, seafood, peanuts, sesame, cats, and dogs, curiosity led her to explore desserts in a new way. She wanted to know more about life beyond food restrictions.

Her twin sister, Legacy Severe, and brother, Jeremiah Severe, share the same allergies. Chef Royal says they spent many childhood years being homeschooled, and when they did join public school, they were often isolated.

“In elementary we always had to sit at the peanut-free table and I was wondering why everyone goes crazy about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” Chef Royal said. “A lot of times we felt like we were excluded from the party or our friends.”

For Chef Royal and her siblings, allergies affect their lives in dietary ways but also how they socialize because some of their allergies are airborne. They have had allergic reactions just walking into a Red Lobster restaurant or hugging family members after a seafood boil party.

EpiPens, packs of Benadryl, and inhalers have been a way of life. She credits her father, Jubner Severe, for being a proactive health advocate for her and her sibling’s safety and care. Chef Royal’s mother, Kabrena Severe, often experimented with other ingredients to make baked goods and bread for the family. Eventually, she continued her mother’s work to find a way to enjoy food.

“Even though we experienced the isolation and being excluded, we still found ways to come up with substitutions as well and learn more about food allergies,” Chef Royal said.

Her determination and initiative led her to entrepreneurship, launching Royal’s Rock N Recipes in 2018. She fell in love with making conscious baked goods after successfully perfecting a snickerdoodle cookie recipe while in high school.

“There were a lot of times where I thought ‘why me’ but then it changed to God thanks for choosing me and using what I thought was maybe a mistake to turn into a masterpiece,” Chef Royal said. “I was thinking that it was a dark place but it brought light to the situation. Serving other people is light. When I take the attention and put it on someone else, that’s when it creates something bigger than myself and it’s worth living for.”

In 2020, Royal enrolled at PGCC where she committed to learning more about her vocation as an allergy-friendly chef and business owner. She graduated with a culinary arts certificate in 2023.

“After learning about recipe costing in my culinary courses, I realized I had to add it to my business,” Chef Royal said. “I sat down with an Excel sheet and started doing the math on everything. My professors worked with me on my allergies and still made it possible for someone like me to enjoy class. I really enjoyed my time at Prince George’s Community College.”

At PGCC, Chef Royal has had the opportunity to be a DMV Black Restaurant Week demonstrator and showcase her baked goods at various PGCC events. In the future, she hopes to own a bakery and offer dessert shipping services all over the world.

“It’s important that people all over the world can celebrate their children or their birthdays even though they have allergies,” she said. “Everyone all over the world should be able to indulge in desserts worry-free.”

Chef Royal encourages others to push through difficult times and find joy in service to others.

“As I am baking and decorating the cakes, I’m thinking about how my actions are out of love,“ she said. “I know exactly what that other person is going through with an allergy. I understand them completely and with that understanding, I can give love and care. I love what I do, the process of it, and the impact it can create.”

To support Royal’s Rock N Recipes, visit www.rrrtreats.com or connect with her on Instagram.


 

Soncier Bey

Published February 15, 2024

“Motivated” is the word Soncier Bey uses to routinely describe his day-to-day outlook. The word-smithing hip-hop artist and Prince George’s Community College alum recently won BET’s Beats and Bars rap competition powered by Nissan.

Bey was selected among several submissions for his light-hearted, 60-second rap highlighting his connection to hip-hop’s historical legacy. He ended his prize-winning sixteen bars expressing the thrill of being a part of hip-hop culture.

“It’s a beautiful time to be alive,” Bey said. “It’s all about what an individual wants. You can have anything you want. You have to create your own perspective of success.”

As the winner of the national rap competition, Bey received a monetary prize and the opportunity to fly to New York to shoot a music video for the song featuring Nissan’s newest Ariya electric vehicle. The video was shown during the nationally syndicated BET Awards ceremony filmed in October 2023. The video has also been featured in a national advertising campaign for Nissan.

“In my heart, I felt I was the winner,” Bey said. “Of course, I was excited to actually win! I got the star quality treatment that I felt I deserved. My relationship with BET is long-standing and it started with a 106 & Park performance many years ago. Winning this competition felt like those days-a rejuvenated feeling.”

Rejuvenation is his reward after many years of remaining motivated and dedicated to a musical calling. Bey uses music as a medicinal vehicle to empower, heal, and transform his community. As a child, he was affectionately called “preacher” in the neighborhood.

“I love how music makes you feel,” he said. “I love the ability to express myself artistically because I have a lot of opinions and viewpoints. I was always very wise.”

Bey spent most of his adolescence being raised in Prince George’s County where he encountered many negative influences. At the age of 16, he suffered a knife wound injury after being stabbed several times in his back resulting in 32 staples.

“It was violence, drugs, police chasings, and shootings,” he said. “I grew up around all of that and it took a toll on how I perceived things. I had a chip on my shoulder about being melanated and being a youth.”

In time, Bey recovered from the incident and persisted in his musical giftings. He formed rap groups with his neighborhood peers, entered several competitions, and eventually had his music played on the radio. Through the years, he released several projects and six albums.

In 2010, he was invited to perform with singer Darelle on BET’s 106 & Park show. He said he spent years catching the bus to attend the show as an audience member to study other rap contest winners. He looked to artists like Twista, Nas, and Tupac Shakur for inspiration. Bey felt he could relate to Tupac’s artistry on many levels.

“I always felt a certain way about my neighborhood but I didn’t know how to frame it,” Bey said. “Tupac was doing that. He was a drama student who grew up in a certain neighborhood and had certain experiences who was able to tap into his divine masculinity and still give you the feminine energy and sensitivity. He was balancing both energies. He was vicious with both of them. He was super romantic, really angry, and revolutionary.”

In 2017, Bey graduated from PGCC after matriculating towards a mass communications degree as a recipient of the Herb Block Foundation scholarship. Although he admits to initially having a disdain for college, attending PGCC as a challenge from his uncle turned out to be a beneficial decision.

“I really started to expand my opinion about community college once I started attending,” Bey said. “I was like wow PGCC has a lot of technology here! I met great people and made great relationships. I met a lot of artists.”

Today, Bey serves as the program director for the nonprofit, Message in the Music, where he recruits and trains other artists to use their talents to be change agents in the world. The programming focuses on community development, financial literacy, and spirituality.

“The lack of spiritual principles is the reason why some of them [the youth] have an impoverished way of thinking and a lot of them are discouraged,” he said. “You have to have the ingenuity skillset to be developed not only as a business-minded individual but as a spiritual being. Without spiritual grounding, you are subjected to be swayed and lose faith.”

The message in Bey’s music has always been about spiritual empowerment.

“Everything is a calling,” he said. “It’s a spiritual calling for me to assist the people who are seeking to get in touch with their inner God. My mission is to enlighten as many spirits as I can through music and teaching.”

Watch Soncier’s video commercial, BET interview, and freestyle performance. Learn more about Soncier’s music here


 

Kendall Andrews smiles in a portrait in a light green shirt and gold earrings.

Kendall Andrews

Published January 9, 2024

While attending Charles Herbert Flowers High School, Kendall Andrews attended PGCC as a dual enrollment student from fall 2019 to spring 2020. Later that year, in the fall, Kendall graduated and began attending Spelman College with a full presidential scholarship.

Read about Kendall’s experience in PGCC’s dual enrollment program, how she received her presidential scholarship, what inspires her, and her career plans post-graduation. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

1.) Tell us about your background and where you are from.

My name is Kendall Andrews. I’m from Prince George’s County, MD, and I am 21 years old. I attended Charles Herbert Flower High School in the science and technology program on the computer science track. I am currently a graduating senior at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA, as a computer science major and dance performance and choreography minor.

I am a Dovey Roundtree Presidential Scholar, which covers full tuition, fees, and room and board for four years [at Spelman College]. I am a Zynga Gaming Scholar, which covers $10,000 for financial aid and supports students interested in gaming. I am part of multiple school organizations, such as Girls Who Code (mentor), Spelman Spelbots Team (social media chair), Spelman E-Sports Team (treasurer), Spelman Dance Theatre (student choreographer), the AUC Agency (dancer), Spelman Dance Student Association (ambassador), Society of Women Engineers, National Society of Black Engineers, Spelman NCNW Section, Spelman NAACP Section, Spelman XR Gaming Club, Spelman Sisters of S.T.E.M, and the DMV Club.

2.) What inspires you? Who are your biggest influences?

I am inspired by my family, but specifically, my mother and my older sister. These two women are my biggest influences because they support me one hundred percent in anything I do and consistently push me to be the best I can be.

3.) What led you to take dual enrollment courses at PGCC?

I took dual enrollment at PGCC to replace my 12th-grade English credit. The course gave me an opportunity to have a half-a-day schedule as a senior and a head start at taking college-level courses.

6.) What inspired you to pursue your major of choice?

Since I attended Charles Herbert Flowers High School in the science and technology program on the computer science track, I had experience in computer science. I met with the head of the department before my first semester started and got introduced to the entire staff. The department was small, and I was confident that if I had any problems, I would have the support I needed to get my questions answered or to receive the assistance I needed to succeed. After I completed my first semester with a 4.0 GPA, I saw that I really understood and enjoyed what I had learned in my first computer science class and continued to pursue it ever since.  

7.) What surprised you the most about being a PGCC student? Tell us more about your experience here.

What surprised me was how prepared I was as a PGCC student. At first, I was nervous that the course would be difficult, especially since I was taking the class with real college students and adults. But, while taking the course, I realized that my AP classes prepared me for the college workload and expectations that my professor had for me.

For the communications course I took at PGCC, I remember having a very kind professor. I enjoyed every class, and even when some students weren’t as prepared or having the best day, she was always very understanding. She encouraged class participation and group assignments, which allowed me to get to know the other students in the class. Every assignment we had to complete was either a paper or a speech. I enjoy writing, but I get nervous from public speaking. From taking the course, my confidence after every speech grew, and my professor always gave me extremely encouraging feedback.

8.) You received a full Presidential Scholarship at Spelman College. Can you tell us more about that and its significance for you?

My senior year in high school was cut short due to COVID-19. While being quarantined at home, I got a job and applied to over 100 scholarships to be able to pay for Spelman’s tuition. At my job, I signed up for a tuition reimbursement program so I could pay my tuition. At Spelman, I got a 4.0 GPA in my first semester and a 3.92 GPA in my second semester. I was recommended to become a computer science teaching assistant as a freshman and be a part of the MITRE Corporation’s first-ever Cyber Futures cybersecurity internship.

After such a successful first year, my mom emailed the president of the college, my financial aid advisor, and the dean of the computer science department about my accomplishments and how hard I have been working to make sure I can continue to afford and attend Spelman. From my mom’s letter, my professor emailed the president of the college recommending that I receive the Dovey Roundtree Presidential Scholarship. After the first semester of my second year, I received that scholarship, which was a full-ride merit-based scholarship for the entirety of my time at Spelman.

9.) How did your PGCC experience prepare you to attend Spelman College?

My experience at PGCC prepared me to attend Spelman because it allowed me to gain more experience in writing. I came into Spelman with one hundred percent confidence in my writing. I have received As on every paper I have written at Spelman. Last semester, I received one hundred percent [scores] on all my papers in my Introduction to Women Studies class and finished with a 101%. I also received an A on my 10-page mandatory capstone research paper as a computer science major.

10.) What would you like to accomplish after graduating?

My goal after graduating is to go to graduate school for data science. My ultimate goal is to create technology that can benefit my community. I love mentoring younger kids, especially Black girls. I want to be able to encourage STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) students – like me – that they can combine their passions and interests and excel. Similarly, I want to be able to combine my creative skills with my passion for dance and my analytical skills with my experience in computer science.

11.) What advice do you have for the next graduating class at PGCC?

The advice I will give to the next graduating class at PGCC would be to treasure the time you have right now. The professors are giving you the tools to succeed whether you can identify it right now or not. You are gaining the knowledge you need to soar in whatever your future goals are.

It is now up to you to use them to the best of your ability. I am sure you all will do great things. Believe in yourself – give yourself grace because you got it!

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