Perryville High grads encouraged to embrace opportunities
— Roars and screams came from the Perryville High School football field for the Class of 2016 Friday night.
“I’m super excited,” Eric Andrews, 17, said about graduating.
In September 2012, Andrews was riding his bike during a friend’s birthday party when he was hit by a vehicle. He ended up in a medically induced coma, but began to improve toward the end of October.
“We didn’t think this day would ever happen,” said Rebecca Biedenback, Andrews’ mother.
She said in October 2012 doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital said her youngest of three children would be in a vegetative state and was advised to start making end-of-life decisions. Instead, he defied “all the odds,” has gone on to graduate high school and will now go onto college, she said.
Nancy Addison, Biedenback’s mother and Andrews’ grandmother, said she is proud of him for graduating and how far he’s come since the incident. “I’m just so proud of him,” she said. Andrews said his plan is to work at
the Chesapeake House rest center on Interstate 95 and attend George Mason University in the fall of 2018. Andrews said he and his family will go for an orientation and walk around the campus in November.
Andrews said he aspires to become a physical therapist because of the ordeal he went through. While recovering, a physical therapy student helped him get through his exercises by distracting him and taking his mind off the pain.
Richard Andrews, Andrews’ father, said his son’s graduation is “crazy special.”
Debra Aiken, Richard’s mother and Andrews’ grandmother, said she is proud as well.
Principal Charles Helm reported Friday that the Perryville High Class of 2016, which listed 202 graduating students, earned over $4.9 million in scholarships. He also reflected on some of the accomplishments of the school year, such as the softball team winning the state championship after an undefeated season and a successful “Little Mermaid” theater production.
He encouraged students as they get older to look back at memories made in high school, appreciate the teacher, coach or counselor who touched their lives, and appreciate the opportunities given to them by friends and family.
“As you move forward in life, I encourage and challenge each of you to embrace each and every opportunity presented to you,” he added.
Valedictorian Trevor Fell graduated with a 4.89 weighted GPA and will study computer science at Fordham University in the fall. He gave a speech about how plans in life may change after graduation.
“We shouldn’t rush to get to the finish line, but rather enjoy the ride, this crazy rollercoaster that is life,” Fell said.
Fell said some may leave friends behind and experience things that may seem frightening, but graduation is also a chance to start a new chapter in life. He urged students to not be held back by fears, but to persevere and have open minds.
“If you look for the light you can often find it, but if you look for the dark, that is by all you’ll ever see,” he said.
Meanwhile, salutatorian Morgan Hazel graduated with a 4.84 weighted GPA and will study biology at the University of Maryland College Park Honors College. She advised her classmates not to rush growing up and embrace the present instead.
She said that while some have had jobs and pay taxes, she and the Class of 2016 are still kids. She’s learned a lot in school, but she doesn’t know to pay a mortgage or take out a loan.
“Be a kid as long as you can,” Hazel said. “Because who really wants to grow up anyway?”
During childhood, we all have fantasies about what it’s like to be older and dream about potential future occupations, Hazel said.
“I encourage you to hope, dream and inspire,” she said.
Paula Phillips and her husband, Andrew, said they are both proud of their daughter, Ashely, the last child in the family to graduate. Ashley will attend Cecil College to become a pharmaceutical technician in the fall.
Meanwhile, Rebekah Hanshaw, 17, also was looking forward to life after graduation.
“I am extremely excited. I feel the future holds a lot,” she said.
She said her plans after graduation include majoring in criminal justice and play volleyball at Harford Community College and eventually transferring to Temple University.
Perryville High School graduates toss their caps at the end of the ceremony.
Eric Andrews, center, poses with family members after receiving his diploma from Perryville High School.
An Elkton High School graduate poses after receiving her diploma during Friday’s commencement ceremony.
Perryville High School seniors sing during the school’s graduation ceremony.