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Cecil County Life

Cecil College student does whatever it takes to get to class

Jan 01, 2015 03:41PM ● By Kerigan Butt

Cecil College student Dallas Stitely arrives at the college’s North East campus on Cecil Transit’s Mid-County Connection.

Although it's often been said that “When I was your age, I walked 10 miles to school, in the snow, uphill, both ways,” that is kind of true when it comes to Cecil College student Dallas Stitely.

Not letting the lack of owning a car prevent her from showing up for class, Stitely has been known to lace up her sneakers and make the approximately 10-mile walk between the college’s North East campus and its Elkton Station facility. The 21-year-old music and theater major has also trekked a similar distance from her home in North East to the college’s North East campus, and said she will continue to do whatever it takes to fulfill a commitment she made to herself more than 10 years ago.

“Since I was around 10 years old, I promised myself that I am going to college,” Stitely said. “I feel like if I finish college, my life will be better. I want to make something of myself. If I have to, I will walk to school, no matter how long it takes.”

An aspiring playwright with a dream of a career in London, Stitely said her childhood was “a struggle.” Her parents’ career changes, personal issues and divorce have led to her residing in a number of locations along the East Coast over the years.

“I was born in Cecil County, but I’ve moved around a lot,” she said. “I probably was never in the same school for more than two years. I’m so used to moving and meeting new people that it has become second nature to me.”

Stitely attended North East High School before moving to Virginia, where she graduated from Arcadia High School. Last year, she returned to Cecil County to move in with her father and enroll at Cecil College.

Dallas Stitely waits for the bus to pick her up.

Stitely credits both of her parents with instilling a love of the arts in her. Her father was a guitarist, and her mother was an actress and a songwriter.

“I come from a family of musicians and artsy people,” she said. “I was literally raised on the stage. My mom would have us memorize Shakespeare lines and perform the scenes. Theater and music are what kept us together.”

Stitely’s grandparents are also aficionados of the arts. She is a big fan of British movies, television shows and music, and can name about 10 times as many British actors as American ones.

Stitely, who plays the guitar, piano, violin, flute and drums, has acted in a variety of genres, including dramas, comedies and musicals. A member of the college’s student performing company, Station Players, she played the role of Rosemary in a May production of  “Picnic.” She and some of her classmates are planning to create an acting guild as well.

“Cecil’s performing arts program is close-knit and very active,” she said. “I like the small classes and the way the teachers appreciate you.”

When she has a few free moments, Stitely can often be found in the college’s library or hanging out in the student lounge with her friends, some of whom have given her rides to and from class. She has also paid for taxis and was thrilled to hear about Cecil Transit offering a new bus route that connects Perryville, Charlestown, North East and Elkton to Cecil College’s North East campus and Elkton Station. The bus makes several stops per day at both Cecil sites, which is especially helpful to people like her who take classes at the two locations.

Since the inception of the Mid-County Connection in January, Stitely has taken about 60 of the approximately 1,500 rides sold to Cecil College students. She utilized the service about twice per week in the spring semester and was often joined by some of the same students.

“The bus is definitely getting more crowded, and I’ve had some friends join me on it,” Stitely said. “The drivers are very pleasant, and one of them, who frequently drives my route, takes an interest in my life.”

Stitely pays for her classes and bus passes with the money she earns from her job at Wawa. Although she puts in about 40 hours per week, she credits the store’s management with being very accommodating around the class schedules of the college students who are employed there.

“I hope I am setting an example for my four younger siblings who are living with our grandparents in Virginia,” Stitely said. “One of my sisters just graduated from high school, and I am trying to convince her to go to college. She is also into theater and music. I told her Cecil has a great program and she should continue her education.”

Stitely, who does have a driver’s license, said her short-term goals are to buy a car, rent an apartment, graduate from Cecil, and keep her job. Although it was not stopping her pursuit of these aspirations, her days of walking down Route 40 have most likely come to an end thanks to Cecil Transit and the support of her classmates and co-workers.

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