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Tech High grads take their next step

June 02, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- By the time Principal Jeffrey E. Stouffer finished saying "congratulations," graduates had pulled off their mortarboards and tossed them in the air.

The cascade of maroon and white, surrounded by puffs of flashbulb light, resembled a fireworks show in the middle of Hagerstown Community College's Athletic, Recreation and Community Center.

The swell of excitement as Washington County Technical High School's Class of 2009 graduated was unmistakable. Several minutes earlier, the graduates' relatives and friends spontaneously rose for a standing ovation.

Stouffer said the class has 182 graduates, seven fewer than the school's record high, which he expects to be broken next year.

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The class also achieved what he called an impressive trifecta: 97 percent average daily attendance, no dropouts in two years and no suspensions, either.

The class -- which studied fields ranging from carpentry to culinary arts to graphic design -- had 23 seniors in the National Technical Honor Society, nine seniors bound for a national skills competition and Washington County Public Schools' only student heading to a military academy, Stouffer said.

"You're statistically the best graduating class ever from Washington County Technical High School," he said.

To underscore the importance of family support, Stouffer asked parents to also stand as their children's names were called to receive their diplomas.

Graduates received rousing cheers from an audience estimated to be more than 2,100 people.

Someone blew an air horn to salute graduate Clay Michael Matthews.

Ashley Nicole Johnson skipped across the stage when her name was called.

Wearing a grin, William Bradley Kern waved to the crowd.

Jacob Lyle Nalley pumped his fist.

"We are in the real world now," Anthony M. Burt, one of two class speakers, said during his speech.

He encouraged classmates to credit the technical and academic teachers who helped them along.

He also led everyone in several moments of silence for Shawn Langley, who died in his sleep last July and would have graduated this year. He wanted to be an architect or engineer, his mother said last year.

Diana Escobar, the other class speaker, urged graduates to push themselves to do as well as they think they can.

"Now, we are on our own," she said, "and we decide what path to take."

Washington County Board of Education member Justin M. Hartings said young adults will be called upon to lead the world through rapid change.

Yet, even new technology can't replace the compassion of a nurse or the instincts of a cop on the beat, he said.

"It's far easier to make a buck than it is to make a difference," Hartings said. "What difference will you make?"

As graduates slipped from the steamy gym to the cool evening air outside, some talked about the paths they've planned.

Andre L. Thomas, who studied auto technology, said he's eager to take the next step: "Find a job," he said. "Find a good one, a good-paying one."

Lindsay Brae Marshall, who studied early childhood professions, wants to be a kindergarten teacher. She said she'll continue her education at HCC, then transfer to Frostburg State University.

Cosmetology student Alicia Terice King hopes to work in a salon.

But she also has her eye on the fashion world. She'll study art at HCC as she tries to get into the Art Institute of New York City or Pratt Institute.

Looking back on the end of her high school years, King said, "It's overwhelming. It's just the start of a new day."

Washington County Technical High School



182 graduates

Valedictorian: Thomas W.W. Bowers

Salutatorian: Stephen P. Ingraham

Class speakers: Anthony M. Burt, Diana Escobar

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