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South High grads told to embrace new ideas

June 06, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- Many South Hagerstown High School students high-fived their teachers Friday morning as they filed into the school's gym for their graduation ceremony.

So began a joyful two-hour ceremony full of hugs, tears and loud bursts of applause.

A proud mother started crying and said "that's my baby, there she goes," as the class of 2008 made its way into the gymnasium.

Jermaine Cain, a 2006 South High graduate, played the traditional "Pomp and Circumstance" on an organ as his fellow Rebels processed in two-by-two.

During the lengthy entrance, one man wiped away tears using his tie.

As he does every year, Principal Richard Akers made good on his promise to keep his speech to two minutes. Akers told his graduates to "treat the minutes and hours that make up your life as the precious treasures they are," and reminded them that, upon receiving their diplomas, they forever are Rebels.

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One of the Rebels, Nicholas Stevens, received an award for having perfect attendance throughout high school. People in the crowd murmured, "How did he do that?" and "You don't hear that every day" as Stevens accepted his award.

Valedictorian Arlene Rivera said that standing before them as their valedictorian always had been a dream of hers. She thanked her parents, teachers and friends for supporting her in that achievement.

She reminded her classmates about the thousands of stories from high school, and that they might enjoy remembering them in the future.

"The past can comfort, but the present brings with it the joy of being alive," she said.

Salutatorian Danielle Higgins is as unsure of her future as anyone else in the room, but the real world was waiting on the other side of the doors, she said. The important thing in life is to learn from any and all mistakes, question everything and think outside the box, she said.

Class President Jordan Kirby announced the graduates' gift to the school - a monetary donation meant for a new scoreboard for School Stadium.

The ceremony's guest speaker, Bernadette Wagner of the Washington County Board of Education, called the graduates members of the "millennial generation."

The experts, she said, debate whether this generation will usher in a culture of duty, civic responsibility and teamwork or whether its members will focus more on their personal needs and satisfaction.

"Let the experts talk," Wagner said. "Embrace new ideas, challenge yourself, be yourself."

South Hagerstown High School graduation at a glance



Number of graduates: 268

Valedictorian: Arlene Rivera

Salutatorian: Danielle Higgins

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