With advice from speakers comparing life to roots of a tree and the future to "a great perhaps," the Class of 2011 at Williamsport High School bid goodbye Thursday during commencement exercises at Hagerstown Community College.
One by one, the graduating students were called to the podium at the school's Athletic, Recreation and Community Center to receive their diplomas during the 7 p.m. ceremony.
Salutatorian Zoie B. Dobrzanski was the first senior to speak. Her speech, "The Tree of Life," compared life to a growing tree, focusing on the roots that serve as the its foundation.
Comparing the roots to life, Dobrzanski said all students must depend on support in their lives. And, like the trunk of a tree that weathers storms, students will go on in their lives to face challenges such as the deaths of loved ones and the ending of relationships, Dobrzanski said.
Those are storms that may peel back the bark, but it will "grow back twice as strong," said Dobrzanski, who noted that graduation is one of "many milestones to come."
Valedictorian Amanda L. Kline said students are discovering themselves as they move into young adulthood.
Now, Kline said, the questions are: Will I be accepted into college? How will I pay for it? Should I join the military?
"The future is really just a great perhaps," Kline said.
Focusing on the school's "green" outlook, class President Spencer E. Taylor presented the class gift, a butterfly garden at the school that is well under way.
Among the other speakers was Washington County Board of Education member Paul W. Bailey.
Bailey told students that they had completed Chapter 1 of "The Book of Life's Experiences."
"Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5 are still to be written," Bailey told the students.
Peering ahead, Bailey said he hoped that the students' future is filled with breakthroughs like a cure for cancer and AIDS, and the elimination of social injustice, hunger, poverty and nuclear proliferation.
"And finally, those Chinese stinkbugs will be eradicated," Bailey said to applause.
Bailey, a long-time supporter of the school, ended his speech with a hearty "Go Wildcats."
Principal Henry L. Bohlander said graduation is not only about where the students have been, but where they are headed in a "a journey of life. Always believe you can. (When you) stop believing in yourself, it's over."