Megan Smith will be one of 508 students graduating from the College of Mount St. Joseph on Saturday, May 12. What makes Megan’s graduation story unique is that not only is she legally blind, but she received her degree in three years and has been accepted into the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program at the Mount.
Megan has a genetic eye disease called Stargardt’s Disease which has led to progressive vision loss. Throughout her high school and college years, she didn’t let her vision problems stand in the way of her dream of becoming a physical therapist. At the Mount, she connected with professors like Beth Murray, Ph.D., a biology professor, to make sure she could see in labs what she needed to learn.
“She’s a great, fun person who has much to teach us all about overcoming obstacles and finding our way,” Murray said.
“One of the reasons I chose the Mount was the help of the professors,” said Smith, who also credits the Mount’s Learning Center as helping her accommodate her needs. “They went out of their way to help me learn and encourage me to get where I am today. I couldn't ask for a better education foundation for my career.”
Smith is a 2009 graduate of Fairfield High School and the daughter of David and Susan Smith.
There are many inspirational stories, like Megan’s, from this year’s graduating seniors.
Marine’s Latest Mission is Mission Work
After graduating from Colerain High School in 2004, Matthew Schmittou spent four years in the Marine Corps. He served two tours in Iraq and was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for acts of valor during combat.
Schmittou shined in the classroom at the Mount as well. As a history major, he had a 3.9+ GPA and took part in honor societies, peer tutoring programs and supported fellow veterans through Veterans in Communities, an outreach organization for local veterans which has a chapter on the Mount’s campus.
“Matt is as fine a young person as I have ever been associated with,” said Tim Lynch, Ph.D., a history professor and Schmittou’s advisor. “One is immediately struck by his maturity and poise. The sense of responsibility, purpose and focus that Matt projects runs deep.”
In addition to campus activities, Schmittou has taken three mission trips in two years to southern Belize through his church. He was awarded this year’s Nontraditional Distinguished Student from the Mount and will speak at commencement.
"One of the things I appreciate most about the Mount is its service learning mission,” he said. “It’s one of the things that drew me to the College. I believe service is an important part of life, and I am glad that this College believes that as well.”
Schmittou plans to either attend law school or receive his commission in the Marine Corps. He is the son of Timothy and Melissa Schmittou of Colerain Township.
Adopted as a Teen, Student Gives Back
Mariana Lamping was 15-years-old, living in an orphanage in Peru when she met her future father while he was on a mission trip with St. Xavier High School. After months of paperwork, Lamping had a new family and arrived in the U.S. on her sixteenth birthday, unable to speak English but with a desire to learn so she could socialize with her new family.
Lamping, a graduate of Colerain High School, will graduate with a degree in social work from the Mount. She began her college career as a nursing student but her inspiration from the nuns who ran the orphanage in Peru, led her to realize her passion was social work.
“I want to work with children,” Lamping said. “My dream is to one day open a halfway house to help kids. This is my way of giving back to society.”
She is the daughter of Greg and Mary Lamping of White Oak.
Learning Lessons with Dad
Chelsey Siefke, a 2008 graduate of East Central High School in Indiana, is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She studied for exams with the help of her father, Mike, an assistant fire chief in Whitewater Township who was studying at the same time for his paramedic certificate.
“Learning with my dad was such a valuable lesson to me since it taught me to work harder,” Siefke said.
She is applying for a critical care internship and would like to become a flight nurse. Chelsey is the daughter of Mike and Angel Siefke.
Wheelchair Doesn’t Get in Way of Student’s Dreams
Neil Kelly is one of the most active students on campus.
The 2008 Sycamore High School graduate and Communication Studies major served on the executive board for the Campus Activities Board for three years, served in student government, Habitat for Humanity, wrote for the student newspaper, and was an announcer at sporting activities. So many activities, despite being in a wheelchair since he was paralyzed at birth.
“Nothing stops him,” said Elizabeth Barkley, Ph.D., professor of English. “He’s one of the students receiving an Excellence in Leadership award and he is very deserving of that honor.”
Kelly says he plans to apply to graduate school for a degree in public administration and non-profit management. “In my years at the Mount, I’ve learned service,” he said. “My ultimate goal is to help people so I’d like to work for a non-profit.”
Kelly is the son of Leslie and Dennis Kelly.
The Mount will hold two commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 12 in the Jean Patrice Harrington, SC, Student Center. The ceremony for adult and graduate students will be held at 10 a.m., and the ceremony for traditional students will be held at 2:30 p.m.
Bob Castellini, chairman of the Castellini Group of Companies and CEO of the Cincinnati Reds, will address the traditional students during the afternoon ceremony. He will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree for his commitment to the city of Cincinnati and its people, and for serving the needs of others. Caroljean Willie, SC, the non-governmental organization representative at the United Nations, will address the adult/graduate students during the morning ceremony. She will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters for her dedication to the poor through her work at the United Nations and for living out the mission of the Mount.
The College of Mount St. Joseph is an undergraduate and graduate Catholic college that provides an interdisciplinary liberal arts and professional curriculum emphasizing values, service and social responsibility.