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Smithsburg High School valedictorian gives graduation class a lively sendoff

June 08, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • Smithsburg High School Valedictorian Abdul Latif flexes his muscles during his speech Friday afternoon at The Maryland Theatre.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

When his time came to speak during Friday’s Smithsburg High School graduation ceremony, Valedictorian Abdul R. Latif chugged some water and grabbed the microphone.

Nine minutes later, he had received two standing ovations for a sharp, punchy monologue filled with inside jokes, advice and a tribute to a classmate who died — all delivered without notes.

Near the end, he zipped through a one-minute rap-style chronology of the Class of 2012’s high-school career.

It was a lively sendoff at The Maryland Theatre in Hagerstown for a class that has experienced both significant successes, through its athletic teams, and the loss of a friend — Mitchell Akers, who died in April after an accident at Municipal Stadium.

“I know he’s watching over us now, and God is handing him his diploma,” Latif said.

“The maturity, dignity and compassion displayed by all of you as you supported anyone who needed support, comforted anyone who needed comfort, demonstrated to me a maturity well beyond the years,” said Wayne D. Ridenour, president of the Washington County Board of Education and husband of Smithsburg teacher Tootie Ridenour.

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Instead of a traditional gift to the school, the senior class donated more than $4,000 to a scholarship fund set up in Akers’ name, Class President Sarah C. Stayer announced.

Stayer, also the salutatorian, said that loving families got the graduates where they are today.

Friends might travel separate paths from here on, but will be only a text or tweet away, whatever lies ahead, she said.

“Don’t let anyone else decide your future,” Stayer said.

“Out there, no one will spoon-feed us,” Latif said. “There won’t be parents to wake us up, or teachers and administrators to keep us in order. Out there, our actions will have consequences, and our success will depend on our own drive for it.”

Principal Karim Shortridge offered two pieces of advice: Don’t let fear drive your decisions and make the decisions that make you happy.

Teacher Rachel L. Kane-Kirkpatrick, who soon will take a job in the school system’s Central Office, encouraged the graduates to maintain their integrity and strive to make a difference in at least one person’s life each day.

Friday also was a farewell for teacher Edward L. Gift, who said it would be his 42nd and final graduation ceremony.

“I could not think of any better place to teach than Smithsburg,” he said.

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