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Williamsport grads given words of encouragement

June 04, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- Pockets of cheers and hollers filled the gymnasium as the names of Williamsport's newest high school graduates were read aloud Thursday.

For one name -- Katarina Patricia Sylvia Stains -- the voices and applause all came together, creating a unified, sustained salute.

Stains, who's known as Katie, was escorted to the dais in her wheelchair, then walked long enough to get her diploma before she had to sit again.

Stains was diagnosed in December with Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.

Addressing a packed Athletic, Recreation and Community Center at Hagerstown Community College, Williamsport High School Principal Henry L. Bohlander spoke of obstacles and difficulties the class overcame on its path to commencement.

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As graduates basked in their new accomplishment after the ceremony, Jasmine Nicole Lloyd said she spent part of her senior year living at a Salvation Army shelter.

The eight or so people who came to see her graduate cheered with the force of three times as many people when her name was called.

With her children Yazzmin, 3, and Jay'ana, 1, by her side, Lloyd said she plans to go to HCC to study phlebotomy, the practice of drawing blood.

"I was nervous," she said of graduation day, "but I'm excited. Now, I'm turning over a new leaf to go to college."

The class of 2009 heard words of encouragement from salutatorian Shannon L. Draper, who said graduates must believe in their abilities before they can succeed.

"Doubt only creates fear," she said, "and fear only creates failure."

Valedictorian Molly R. Haas said technology has advanced exponentially in their years in school. Maintaining a bank account or ordering a pizza are easily done "from the palm of our hands," she said.

But nothing replaces their need to push themselves and exceed expectations.

"Now, we must act," Haas said. "No one is going to do it for us."

Washington County Board of Education Vice President Ruth Anne Callaham drew parallels to 1969, when she was in the same stage of life as the graduates. The nation had a new president, an unpopular war, high inflation and high unemployment.

"Where there is chaos, give leadership," Callaham urged the class. "Where there is hopelessness, give hope. Speak in a clear voice for others. Be someone's hero."

The commencement was the last at Williamsport for Ruth Ridenour, who is leaving the school after 31 years for a job at the new Barbara Ingram School for the Arts.

Ridenour directed the show choir through several numbers during the course of the evening.

Her brother, Wayne, the school board president, was among the school officials who helped hand out diplomas.

Before commencement began, some in the class said they're planning to attend HCC.

"Stay close, go far," Kalli Brooke Rexrode said of her immediate plans, repeating the college's marketing slogan.

Rexrode said she wants to study medical administration and work in a doctor's office.

Her friend Sarah Elizabeth Duffey expects to study nursing, in hopes of being a registered nurse at Washington County Hospital. Duffey said she worked a little at the hospital while in school as part of a nursing assistant program.

Another friend, Tiffany Lee-Anne Kegley, said she'll study biology and work toward a career in zoology or something else related to animals.

Rexrode said of the end of high school, "It's exciting. It's a step forward."

"It's good to be leaving," Duffey said, "because you can start your life."

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