North High grads told indifference is 'real enemy of life'


HAGERSTOWN -- Some might say high school graduation speeches are filled with cookie-cutter advice that is dismissed as soon as it is heard.

That was not, however, the case Friday at North Hagerstown High School's class of 2008 graduation ceremony.

In her speech, salutatorian Jessica Shuff cautioned her classmates about expecting life to go smoothly.

"Things may go wrong in our lives," Shuff said. "It is important to wait, however, and have confidence that things will turn out for the best."

No sooner had she finished than her classmate, Alexander Knepper, walked to the microphone and began singing "You'll Never Walk Alone."

His lips moved but, thanks to a malfunctioning microphone, no words were heard.

He moved to an adjacent microphone.

Same thing.

Knepper smiled and shrugged his shoulders as the crowd clapped politely.

Seconds later, Knepper's booming voice came through the speakers, and he finished the song to thunderous applause from the audience.


The auditorium at North High was packed for Friday's ceremony. No seats were available in the 1,316-seat capacity room, and about 100 people watched the event on a television in the school's cafeteria.

As they lined up in the gymnasium before the ceremony began, some of the 275 graduating seniors said they had mixed emotions about the day.

"I'm sad to leave my friends. But it's exciting to see what's next for us," said Hannah Boward, who will study pre-med at St. Mary's College in Maryland this fall.

"It's a little sad. After today, there are people I won't see anymore," said James Eichelberger, who will study computer science at Hagerstown Community College.

Valedictorian Susan Kelly called Friday's graduation "an important time in our lives."

"We're like a group of baby birds learning to fly, or maybe 275 baby turtles departing for the ocean," said Kelly, who will attend the University of Maryland, College Park and study chemical engineering.

Kelly compared the group of graduating seniors to marchers, which she said she thinks of as "a powerful symbol of determination."

She said no matter how diverse her classmates' paths might be in the future, she thinks of them as one unit, using their "talents and strengths to march toward a better tomorrow."

She said indifference, not opposition, is "the real enemy in life," and urged her classmates to remember the words of local community leader Mike Callas.

"He said the world is run by the people who show up," Kelly said.

North Hagerstown High graduation at a glance

Number of graduates: 275

Valedictorian: Susan Kelly

Salutatorian: Jessica Shuff

The Herald-Mail Articles