• 2017 distinguished graduate Lukas Kassa

CCBC Class of 2017’s Lukas Kassa was excited to greet his fellow classmates, family and friends as he delivered the commencement address during CCBC’s “Diamond Anniversary” Commencement ceremony. Selected as the 2017 President’s Distinguished Graduate Award recipient, Lukas shared his story of redemption with nearly 1,000 graduates while he encouraged them to believe in themselves and never give up.

Graduating summa cum laude with his Associate of Applied Sciences degree, Lukas’ leadership transcends the classroom to his work managing an addiction recovery program and his mentoring of fellow students in the Chemical Dependency Counseling program.

“Luke [Lukas] has always made his degree a priority and works hard in all his subjects, not just to ‘get the grade’ but because he sees the importance his education has on being able to save lives and help others,” said Sara Burden, president, Evolve Life Centers in Pasadena, Md. The facility is where Kassa, himself in recovery for addiction and celebrating three years clean, currently manages and assists 20 men in the process of early recovery from substance abuse.

While at CCBC, Kassa was an active member of the Honors program and was instrumental in tutoring his classmates, leading study groups and founding the CCBC Counseling Cadets, a student-operated organization for counseling majors.

From the outside looking in, one might think that Kassa is confident and has always had it all together, but that hasn’t been the case. He says many of the challenges he faced while at CCBC were self-imposed – battling the thought that he wasn’t worthy of academic success. It took others believing in him for him to overcome his doubts.

“I never thought I would graduate or have any type of academic achievement,“ said Kassa. “But I learned to stop defeating myself and putting limits on what I thought I could do.”

Having grown in confidence, Kassa completed his associate degree requirements in December 2016 and transferred to UMBC, where he has finished his first semester toward the goal of a bachelor’s degree in Social Work.

Admitting it has taken great perseverance to overcome his past, Kassa sees his CCBC experience as a redemptive one.

“Every change, every positive thing that has happened in my life to this point happened from the time that I started here [CCBC] until now,” Kassa explained. “I didn’t just get a degree here. I grew up on these campuses.”