More than a few audience members used their programs as makeshift fans to stay cool in the hot, humid air.
Minutes before the class took the stage, valedictorian Nicholas Smith, 17, said he was nervous, but not about making his speech.
"It's just the fact of graduation," he said.
On June 27, he will depart for the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.
"I can't wait," Smith said. "It's really beautiful out there."
Before he leaves, however, Smith said he will take a short vacation in Ocean City, Md.
Several of his classmates said they plan to do the same.
Amy Burgesser said she will travel to Wildwood, N.J., this summer on a brief vacation before she begins taking classes at High Point (N.C) University to become a teacher.
"I'm kind of nervous," she said. "It's a new chapter in our lives. You don't really start over, but continue with what you have."
Burgesser said she will miss her teachers and classmates, especially Victoria Hatcher, 17.
"I feel like I'll be losing my other half," Hatcher said of Burgesser.
The duo has been friends since Hatcher moved to Clear Spring from Hagerstown, and said that they plan to stay together next year by carpooling to their respective colleges.
Soon after the ceremony began, the auditorium's lights were dimmed to observe a moment of silence in remembrance of classmates William Daniel Bynaker and Thomas Ray Reeves, whose lives were cut short in separate auto accidents last year.
A handful of students spoke fondly about their high school experiences.
"We have learned about the meaning of perseverance ... Don't cry because it's over," said Emily Myers, class salutatorian. "Smile because it happened."
Co-salutatorian Erica Hernandez called her classmates incredible individuals.
She encouraged the rest of the class to live each day as if it were their last, saying the next moment is not guaranteed.