Altruistic alumni pay it forward

  • Couple donates graduation regalia

    Wednesday, April 18, 2018
    Cardel Louis-Jacques and fiancée Shanicia Hanson

    Shanicia Hanson was about to move in November 2016 when she discovered graduation regalia from her undergraduate days at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. 

    “As I was packing, I came across my cap and gown … and I asked (fiancé Cardel Louis-Jacques) if he still had his,” Hanson said. “He responded 'yes,' but did not know what … to do with them.” 

    Louis-Jacques earned a degree in finance from UMES in 2015, while Hanson is a dual degree holder; criminal justice (2013) and a master's in rehabilitation counseling (2016). 

    “I wrote the idea down that, as one of my short-term goals, I would like to collect caps and gowns and donate to students who might be experiencing financial hardship and (be) unable to celebrate their big day,” Hanson said. 

    After settling into their new home in Gaithersburg, Md., “we reached out to a few of our friends and asked if they still had their caps and gowns,” she said. 

    It turned out they were not alone. 

    Hanson then took to social media and floated the idea among UMES graduates about joining them in their grassroots' effort. 

    “We were overwhelmed with the positive feedback we received and look forward to continue giving back to our dear alma mater,” Hanson said. 

    One of those responding on social media was Cortina Johnson of Frederick, Md., a 2016 rehabilitation services graduate. 

    “I thought 'I can give back.' There's no reason to hold on it,” Johnson said. “If there's some way I can help somebody's big day that was as special as I mine was, I was glad to give it up.” 

    Hanson collected nearly two dozen caps and gowns, and paid to have them dry-cleaned. 

    During homecoming in February, she and Louis-Jacques delivered what they had collected to a friend, who in turned passed them on the Office of Institutional Advancement. 

    “It was a good opportunity for alumni to give back, especially young alumni,” Louis-Jacques said. “I know for myself, it was a struggle to pay for a cap and gown.” 

    “We're able to help and communicate with other people across the country who went to UMES and (who) want to show their support,” he said. “We're still a Hawk family even though we're not on campus.” 

    Dr. Veronique Diriker, UMES Director of Development, is working with academic unit leaders to create a regalia loaner closet where students can discretely access caps and gowns to participate in graduation. 

    “UMES paved the way for my fiancé and me,” Hanson said, “and we believe this is a small blessing that we could do and give back to students and the university.”


    UMES alumni inspired by the generosity of Shanicia and Cardel are encouraged to send an e-mail to Dr. Veronique Diriker to learn more about how to participate.