County grads take their stages


Overwhelmed with flowers and a lot of hugs, 374 Hagerstown high school seniors marched toward an uncertain future Friday.

North Hagerstown High School graduated 237 students while 136 graduated at South Hagerstown High School at morning. commencement exercises.

Commencements were also held Friday at Boonsboro, 189 graduates; Smithsburg, 140 graduates; and Williamsport, 159 graduates. Thursday commencements were held at Clear Spring High School, 64 graduates, and Hancock High School, 28 graduates.

The Washington County Technical High School held its commencement June 13 with 149 graduates, and the Job Development Center held its ceremony June 2 for 11 graduates.

For Tascha Sonntag, a 19-year-old North High senior, the chance to graduate "means a lot to me because I failed twice; I've been struggling so long."


Sonntag wasn't promoted twice with her class - an obstacle many students might have used as an excuse to quit.

But "quit" wasn't in Sonntag's vocabulary.

Her mother, Pam Sonntag, said she was proud of her daughter, not only Friday, but every day.

"A lot of kids would have given up, but Tascha didn't," Pam Sonntag said.

Quit wasn't in the vocabulary of South High valedictorian David Iseminger either.

As a sixth-grader Iseminger set a goal to become a valedictorian. He said he worked at his goal day-by-day rather than looking at it as a four-year struggle.

"This is the culmination of years of work and dedication from the family," said his father, Harold Iseminger.

"This is a new beginning" David Iseminger said. "Everything we know will change after today."

Amber Stotemyer of North High echoed similar sentiments.

"For me, this day is a beginning. Today, I start my real life!"

Before moving on to a "real life" and rounds of graduation parties, the Class of 2000 heard commencement speeches from their fellow students, as well as from Baltimore City Circuit Judge David W. Young, a Hagerstown native who spoke at North High, and Maryland Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick who spoke at South High.

Grasmick's advice to the South High graduates was "almost everything is extraneous, everything but the relationships you form." In those relationships, Grasmick advised the students to "seek wealth ... find truth ... and be content in them always."

Leaving friendships, many of them formed in grade school, will be difficult, said students.

David Acree seemed to embody the Class of 2000's motto at North High - "crazy friends provide crazy times, and what crazy times we've had," a quote attributed to rock singer-songwriter Neil Young.

"It's going to be sad leaving my friends behind," Acree said. "But there were a lot of fun times."

Many of the graduates are headed off to college, others to work. Some say they already know what they want from life.

Jessica Renne Collins of North High wants to be a teacher.

"I know what my teachers did for me and for other students," Collins said. "I want to do that, too ... to be there for kids."

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