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November 15, 1998


BALTIMORE - When home-schooled teenager Jamie Smith Hopkins arrived at UMBC three and a half years ago, she prepared to sit in class with other students and earn grades from a professor for the first time in her life. "I was so nervous during the first couple of weeks," says the full scholarship student, "I didn't think I was going to make it."

But UMBC's winter commencement valedictorian earned a 4.0 GPA that first semester and every semester following. Hopkins will speak to more than 600 undergraduates and 130 master's and Ph.D. candidates at commencement on Tuesday, Dec. 22 at 10 a.m. in the UMBC Fieldhouse. Other speakers include President Freeman Hrabowski, Alumni Association President Bill Glover and Board of Regents representative Charles Cole.

Throughout Hopkins' home-schooling experience, pedagogy methods were the topic of fervent national debate. "My father helped establish the home schooling by-laws for Maryland so I grew up hearing about the controversy," she remembers. Although initial media reports were often negative or skeptical about home-schooling, she says, "There's a much more positive atmosphere now, maybe because more and more home-schooled students are graduating from college."

Not only an outstanding student, Hopkins' is an accomplished journalist whose works have appeared in The Baltimore Sun, national home-schooling publications and the Retriever Weekly, UMBC's student newspaper. As a writer and editor for the Retriever, Hopkins brought increased coverage of campus governance issues to students and parlayed the experience into four semester internships with The Sun where she wrote five front-page articles and worked as a general assignment reporter.

"She's the sort of undergraduate who will be remembered long after she's gone," says Christopher Corbett, English faculty member, former Associated Press editor and advisor for the Retriever. "Her reporting was of a professional quality rarely seen at the college level. Her ability to follow a story, think things through and report is on a par with someone with ten years experience."

Hopkins says, "Ben Bradlee, a former editor at the Washington Post, said journalism is 'something of an addiction. And I don't think you understand that addiction unless you do it." In January Hopkins' addiction will lead her to Ames, Iowa, for a position as the K-12 Education reporter at the Ames Tribune. "It's kind of ironic," she says, "since I never attended grades K-12."

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Posted by dwinds1 at November 15, 1998 12:00 AM