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Williamsport grads look toward future

June 09, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

As his classmates fidgeted with graduation programs and unfamiliar ties, one Williamsport High School senior sat alone.

For Collin Jackson, 17, making an appearance at Thursday's ceremony at Hagerstown Community College's Athletic, Recreation and Community Center was an achievement.

"At 1 o'clock this afternoon, I left the University of Maryland Medical Center, I guess you'd call it," said Collin, who was diagnosed with leukemia in September.

When his classmates lined up to enter the gym, Collin slapped hands and exchanged greetings from his wheelchair. According to the program, Collin belongs to a graduating class of 201 students.

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"My doctor said he was going to do the best he could do to get me to graduation," said Collin, who wore a mask to the event.

Salutatorian Laura Forsythe and valedictorian Jason Brown advised fellow graduates to take stands on issues important to them and work toward their goals.

"When you toss your hats, toss them toward your goal, and let nothing stop you from reaching your goal," Laura said.

Outside the gym, students said their next steps included college, boot camp and work.

"I'm going to live life and be happy," said Sirdrease Morgan, 18.

Some people expressed mixed emotions about graduation.

"It's bittersweet," said Lauren Baker, 18. "I'm going to miss the dances and all that kind of stuff, but I'm not going to miss the people."

While she said she was happy, parent Deb DeMine conceded she also felt anxious.

"I feel old today. This is my first, this is my first kid that's graduating," said DeMine, the mother of Kevin DeMine, 17. "I'm happy, I'm just worried. He's going to college, but he hasn't really found himself."

Before collecting his diploma, Collin, who beamed as he crossed the stage, seemed serene. He said he plans to become a psychologist and a pastor. The order does not matter, he said.

"Whichever way God wants it to go," Collin said.

His mother was more emotional.

"We were chewing our nails waiting to get out of the hospital today," Glenda Jackson said. "This is a monumental event for all of us. It's been a battle."

With a classmate at each elbow, and his mask and wheelchair out of sight, Collin walked across the stage and gathered his diploma.

His classmates stood in applause. His mother later sobbed. One student shouted, "Yeah, Collin."

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