Laughs, tears

June 10, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD


South Hagerstown High School's valedictorian summed it up in the first four words of his graduation speech.

"Um, it's finally over," South High's top student, Zachary Ficklin, said Friday.

An air of humor and lightheartedness marked South High's commencement. Altogether, 249 students graduated with South High's class of 2006.

The ceremony briefly was disrupted when a dispute erupted between two attendees.

The incident led to the arrest of James J. Myers, 19, of Greencastle, Pa., who police said allegedly punched a woman he felt was talking too loudly during the program. Myers was charged with assault and disrupting school operations, police said.

The dispute did not put a damper on the overall mood.

Principal Richard Akers' welcome drew out a few laughs early on.

"I told (the graduates) the better they did at graduation practice, the shorter my speech would be," Akers said. "I can't believe high school graduates fell for that."


In his speech, Akers urged students to be lifelong learners, and told them that a high school diploma might not be enough to get them through life.

Or as Ficklin said at the end of his speech, "Try to learn stuff, um, something like that."

After the ceremony, Rene Thomas, 17, and Valerie Shank, 18, clung to each other and cried.

"I'll see you around again," Thomas said.

"I love you!" Shank said.

"I love you, too!" Thomas said as her friend pulled away.

"I was fine until I started seeing my friends from elementary school," Shank later said. A tear came down from the bottom of her large, dark sunglasses as she spoke.

Shank plans to attend Hagerstown Community College and hopes to transfer to Shippensburg (Pa.) University, where she plans to major in accounting.

Thomas, who lives in Funkstown, also will attend HCC. She said she plans to major in graphic design.

"I'll miss just seeing the people every day that you don't usually call," Thomas said.

Justin Renner, 17, of Hagerstown, was all smiles as he posed for pictures with family. But it might have been just a facade.

"I'm very depressed," said Renner, who also plans to attend HCC. "I'm going to miss this place."

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