For Dawn Beard the graduation of her son, Dalton, from Boonsboro High School was an occasion aptly described in one word:
"Bittersweet," she said as she watched her son and 231 others receive their diplomas at Hagerstown Community College's Athletic, Recreation and Community Center.
Beard had gone to the graduation ceremony in 2010, the year her son Zachary would have graduated. Zachary was killed on July 4, 2004, in an ATV accident that also claimed the life of another boy.
"I came to graduation last year because I knew all his friends." Beard said.
Dalton, who also graduated from Washington County Technical High School this week, will go on to Trident Technical College in South Carolina to study architectural engineering, said Dawn Beard, herself a Boonsboro graduate.
Jenelle Robillard graduated five years ago and was back to see her sister, Tessa, don the cap and gown.
"She's the last, so it's sad," Jenelle said. "It's good just to come back and see everyone and watch the last kid walk the stage."
"Oh my God, it's wonderful. When she comes walking down here I'm sure I'm going to cry," said Deana Swartz, waiting to see her daughter, Lacey Leigh Swartz, finish her high school career. In her arms she held her son's 8-month-old daughter, Rayne Swartz.
"Hopefully, in 18 years she'll graduate" from Boonsboro, she said.
Some members of the Class of 2011 were able to give their parents a gift. Class members had been awarded a total of $4,505,959.44 in scholarships to continue their education, Assistant Principal Garth J. Fazio said.
"Don't spend it all in one place," Fazio advised.
Washington County Board of Education President Wayne Ridenour, the guest speaker, said he could not remember who was the speaker at his own graduation.
"What you will remember are the celebrations of this day," Ridenour said. "When you return from the beach ... your journey will begin anew."
The world may look gloomy now, but Ridenour advised the graduates to open the door when opportunity knocks. If it does not, he advised them to "go door-to-door."
Friday's graduation speakers — valedictorian Eric Ryberg, co-salutatorians Megan D. Deckert and Dominick DiMercurio II, and senior class President Erin C. Scally — delivered short, well-crafted speeches.
"It's Friday. Friday. We graduate on Friday," Ryberg said, paraphrasing the lyrics of the Rebecca Black song.
"In high school, some of us were sitting in the front seat, while others were chillin' in the back seat. Some were ambitious .... Others, they relaxed. They got by, but had a whole lot of fun doing it," Ryberg said.
"We don't want this weekend to end, but when it does, what will you do?" Ryberg asked. "I urge you to take the front seat. The ambitious seat."