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They're 'Rebels for life'

June 09, 2007|By ERIN JULIUS

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HAGERSTOWN - More than 200 South Hagerstown High School graduates, including one who hasn't missed a day of school in 13 years, walked across the stage on Friday to receive their diplomas.

Cameras flashed as graduates filed in - males through one door, females through the other - before they paired up to walk down a center aisle.

Family and friends of graduates squeezed into the bleachers and folding chairs inside South's gym. Overflow seating was available in the auditorium, where the graduation ceremony was broadcast.

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Joshua Mills, 17, graduated Friday after 13 years in Washington County public schools.

He started in kindergarten at Salem Avenue Elementary School and worked his way through Western Heights Middle School before his four years at South - all without ever missing a single day of school.

His illnesses never have amounted to more than a cold, so he never has had to stay home sick, Mills said. He plans to continue his uninterrupted education, attending Hagerstown Community College for a year before transferring to the University of Maryland to study architecture, he said.

Mills was one of several dozen graduates who received awards and honors on Friday. South graduates earned nearly $1.5 million in scholarships this year, guidance counselor Emily Jones said.

Principal Richard Akers told students he wanted to take 30 minutes to warn students about the pitfalls they might face in life, another 30 minutes to discuss the great opportunities in the world and still more time to lecture about the importance about being frugal with money.

But Akers kept his speech short, telling students they now are educated enough to know they don't know everything. He encouraged them to return to cheer for their alma mater when South takes on city rival North Hagerstown High School on the playing field.

The 231 graduates now are Rebels for life, he said.

Salutatorian Kaitlin Trump earnestly talked about the successful futures in store for her fellow graduates before breaking into sobs as she talked about her hero - her mother.

Valedictorian Matthew Deppen gave a speech that was much shorter.

"I'm sure we're all happy it's all over," he said.

Deppen was going to avoid using a bunch of tired clichs during his graduation speech, he said.

"Let's just get this thing over with," he said.

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