Waynesboro seniors graduate

June 10, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

EMMITSBURG, Md. - More than 4,000 family members and friends watched 256 Waynesboro Area Senior High School seniors graduate Tuesday night in Knott Arena at Mount Saint Mary's College - a change of venue this year from the usual commencement site at the high school.

Waynesboro Area Senior High School usually holds its graduations outdoors in the school's football stadium or, if it rains, inside the gymnasium.

That happened last year on an unusually hot night. The gymnasium is not air conditioned and dozens of patrons either fainted in the steamy atmosphere or had to be taken outside.


A majority of the senior class members voted earlier this year to hold commencement at Mount Saint Mary's.

All eight Frederick County, Md., high schools hold their graduations there, said Cameron Grimes, a facility manager at Knott Arena. He estimated the crowd Tuesday night at more than 4,000.

It was not known if anyone heading to Mount Saint Mary's Tuesday evening through Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., along Pa. 16 - the preferred route between Waynesboro and Emmitsburg - anticipated a traffic jam like the one they were heading into.

What is normally a leisurely 25-minute drive to cover the 20 miles between the two communities took much longer Tuesday. The start of the ceremony was delayed for almost an hour.

Graduates, parents and friends still were streaming into the arena past 7 p.m. for the commencement, which was scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. Several graduates were seen bolting from cars, caps and gowns flowing as they ran.

"Pomp and Circumstance" began at 7:20 p.m.

"It was absolutely crazy," said John Arsenault, father of senior Leilani Arsenault. "No one expected an hour and 20 minute drive here. There was all this traffic heading through one of the smallest towns in Maryland."

"We hit Emmitsburg at 6 p.m. and we just got here," said Bryan Shatzer of Chambersburg. His watch showed 7 p.m. He was there to see his niece, Amanda Doyle, get her diploma.

Richard and Kim Johnson were there for their daughter, Jennifer.

"I liked it better at the high school," Richard Johnson said. "You didn't have to travel."

"Our daughter said she would rather have graduated from her own school," Kim Johnson said.

Mark and Sally Gayman left home at 4:30 p.m. and arrived before the crowds. Their daughter, senior class secretary Joy S. Gayman, was graduating.

"I thought it was a good idea to try it here once to see," Sally Gayman said of the arena.

It was the high school's 121st commencement.

The boys wore blue caps and gowns, the girls wore white.

School Principal Jami L. Verderosa said 43 graduates were in the National Honor Society, seven were in the National Art Honor Society, 103 had a grade-point average of 3.2 or higher, 11 had 1 percent absenteeism and 15 were members of the Future Business Leaders of America.

"It feels good, kind of scary," class president Wesley D. Akers said in his address. "It's time to move on. Time to enter the real world."

He said school taught the seniors to change and to adapt to what's around them.

Valedictorian J.I. Wesley Payne quoted Ernest Hemingway, the Apostle Paul and "The Lord of the Rings" in his remarks.

"It's a dangerous business going out the door," he said, quoting from "Rings."

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