Graduates prepare for life after high school

Graduates prepare for life after high school

June 11, 2005|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

HAGERSTOWN - The heat inside the halls at North Hagerstown High School was enough to make the graduates use their name cards to fan themselves Friday morning, but that's not what was making one student admittedly hysterical.

"I'm hyperventilating!" Brooke Ward proclaimed emphatically to the students standing next to her, shaking her hands.

Dressed in her white graduation gown and heels, she said it was the excitement of graduation, rather than the heat, that was overwhelming.

"It's so bittersweet," Ward said. "I'm gonna be so hysterical because I'm not going to see these people every single day of my life. ... I think it's going to be a big change."


She was one of 282 students to graduate from North High Friday, about a dozen of whom were graduating a year early.

The class also boasted a larger number than usual of those planning to join the military in the next six months - nine - and about three-fourths of graduates are going on to two- and four-year colleges, school officials said.

The graduation ceremony had all the trappings of a celebration - flowers, balloons, people exchanging heartfelt hugs, and graduates high-fiving each other as they awaited the ceremony's beginning.

As students were getting ready to get across the stage at the school's auditorium, shake administrators' hands and receive their diplomas, some reflected on the significance of the day.

Terrence Boyce summed it up: "Well - glad to get out of high school."

For Boyce, the last four years weren't always easy. At times, he said, he held two jobs, and because of that took some night classes. He said he will be going to Lincoln University near Harrisburg, Pa.

Other times were fun "just hanging with my friends," Boyce said.

Matt Stowell also was graduating Friday. He said the significance of the day can feel elusive.

"I don't really think it's hit me yet, and honestly, I don't feel that special," Stowell said. "It feels like any other day."

One thing Stowell said he feels marked his class was its cultural diversity.

"It's a pretty diverse class, just like, ethnicity-wise," Stowell said. "Stuff like this ... it'll kind of ring towards (home) later in life."

Brenndan Sweeney said he's looking forward to going to Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I. High school quickly is fading into the past.

"I guess I'll miss it," Sweeney said. "But I'm more going to figure out where I'll go from here."

Brenda Labore said she's from Micronesia - an island nation between Hawaii and the Philippines - and North High is the first school she attended in the states.

"I'm excited," Labore said as she was putting on her mortarboard. The last four years were "hard, but I made it. ... I made a lot of friends."

Each speaker at the graduation ceremony, from the principal to the schools superintendent, offered advice and guidance to the graduates, but maybe the most insightful speech was from class valedictorian Kirsten Sundstrom.

Sundstrom told the audience she compiled her top 10 list of graduation advice from authors and humorists. The one-liners, complete with a high-hat and rimshot combo, drew cheers and laughs from both the graduates and their parents.

"Be nice to nerds - chances are, you'll end up working for one," Sundstrom cracked for her No. 4 spot.

Last on Sundstrom's list was good advice for those starting the next chapter in their lives, and anyone else, for that matter: "If at first you don't succeed, do it like your mother told you."

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