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Graduation marked with tears and cheers

May 29, 2004|By TAMELA BAKER

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.VA.

It was standing room only Friday evening at Shepherd University's Butcher Center as the Martinsburg High School class of 2004 filed in, with all the pomp such circumstances merit.

This year, some 268 seniors assembled for their rite of passage into adulthood. Families and friends, from graying grandparents to toddling nieces and nephews, filled the bleachers and the balconies.

There were tears and cheers, brief remarks by class leaders and their principal, and songs from the school's choir - all punctuated by the occasional squeal of a tiny sibling or cousin.

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Class salutatorian Suyog Benegalrao noted that the class had chosen a statement by the Rev. Martin Luther King as its favorite quote - "If a man has nothing to die for, he is not fit to live." How the students chose to live was most important, he said.

"Contribution to society was one of Dr. King's messages," he said, urging his classmates to conduct themselves with "respect for all people," regardless of race or creed.

"We must try to resist the evils and temptations that we face in every day life," he added.

Jennifer Armbruster, one of this year's two valedictorians, thanked everyone from her parents to her chemistry teacher to her little brother for helping her survive high school.

"We've made it through every test as we prepare for the next chapter of our lives," she said.

She then challenged her audience to "take a look around and remember these faces these are the faces of the future."

Classmate Sarah Hansel, the other valedictorian, had a bittersweet message for her fellow graduates.

"We've grown so close to everything at Martinsburg - even the teachers," Hansel said. "We may keep in touch with our high school friends; we may not. Chances are we will drift apart. But we will always have this time together to bind us."

Principal Kenneth L. Pack III lavished praise on the class, declaring "I would wish you luck, but you're too talented to need luck."

And just before handing out diplomas, Pack threw out three challenges to the graduating seniors:

"Hold your head high

"Accomplish great things

"Have fun."

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