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In changing world, Hancock grads savor homegrown bonds

June 02, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • Hancock Middle-Senior High School salutatorian Rebecca J. Burcham gets a once-over from assistant principal Larry Smith Thursday night prior to commencement.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

The longer Rebecca J. Burcham spoke about her school career in Hancock, the more her voice cracked with emotion.

Burcham, the salutatorian of Hancock Middle-Senior High School's Class of 2011, encouraged her classmates to think how they can best fulfill their purpose and allow themselves to be guided, when necessary.

"Don't be afraid of moving forward," she said.

For some in the class, the next step is college, particularly Hagerstown Community College or Allegany College of Maryland.

Some will go to a trade school, others will enter the military, and some will go directly into the work force, Principal Martin R. Green said.

Since "that diploma makes no promises," Green said Hancock's newest alumni will face lifelong tests in a sometimes demanding and hostile world.

But they have their roots and grounding in a town where the high school is truly a central part of the community, Green said.

He said he was impressed that several Hancock students who graduated from Washington County Technical High School came back to be part of Thursday's Hancock commencement.

"Bonds as tight as ours can't easily be broken," valedictorian Jenna P. Hull said in her speech.

Inevitably, classmates will go on to bigger things on a path toward happiness, but "we will always keep the memories of each other close," she said.

After hearing about the hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships they earned and shifting their mortarboard tassels to signify the end of their days at Hancock, the graduates assembled in front of the school.

Following tradition, they gathered at the flag pole and tossed their caps toward the sky.

Then, it was time for hugs, photographs and a ton of well wishes.

In her address to the class, school board member Donna L. Brightman said the world has been a whirl of change since the graduates started school.

The Encarta encyclopedia was popular when they first set out for school. Now, it's Wikipedia. Dial-up Internet access has given way to smartphones.

She quoted a theory that 50 percent of people's lifetime earnings are determined by their experiences through age 18 — namely, the attitudes, perceptions and norms around them.

She closed with a checklist she said came from Jim Hightower's book, "Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow."

The list includes: Question authority. Trust your values. Take risks. Invite change. Break away from the crowd.

"Don't be afraid to try on different lives," Brightman said.

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