Elk­ton High grads told to ‘em­body fight­ing spirit’


— There were smiles and dances aplenty dur­ing the Elk­ton High School Class of 2016 com­mence­ment cer­e­mony on Fri­day.

In­deed, the 266 grad­u­ates had plenty to cel­e­brate af­ter earn­ing $2.9 million in com­bined schol­ar­ships as a class. Elk­ton High Prin­ci­pal John Roush also awarded Kayla Kirk with his an­nual Prin­ci­pal’s Award for striv­ing to chal­lenge her­self with the school’s science, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics program, soft­ball team, march­ing band, orches­tra and more.

Roush ap­plauded the suc­cess of all his se­niors in the class­room, on the ath­letic fields and in the com­mu­nity, but he also ad­vised them to stay de­voted to bet­ter­ing them­selves in the fu­ture.

“Un­til now, your ed­u­ca­tion has been metic­u­lously planned for you,” he said. “You gen­er­ally knew what was go­ing to be taught and how you would be as­sessed, so you could prove that you had learned some­thing … But the funny thing about life is that there will no longer be daily ob­jec­tives writ­ten on the


jowens@ce­cil­whig.com board to guide you. Learn­ing will be­come more dif­fi­cult to quan­tify, and most real life tests are unan­nounced, es­pe­cially tests in­volv­ing your char­ac­ter, ethics and em­pa­thy for oth­ers.”

Roush also sug­gested that the grad­u­ates ab­sorb the thoughts of oth­ers, even those with whom they don’t agree.

“Les­sons will come dis­guised as opin­ions, some­times from peo­ple who you aren’t par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in lis­ten­ing to,” he said. “Lis­ten es­pe­cially care­fully to those un­so­licited and un­scripted opin­ions as they will help you de­velop and de­fine your be­lief sys­tem.”

Class salu­ta­to­rian Zainab Hayat, who earned a 4.963 weighted GPA and will at­tend Univer­sity of Mary­land Col­lege Park in the fall, rem­i­nisced about how a class of awk­ward fresh­man grew into con­fi­dent se­niors.

“We’re caught in that awk­ward mo­ment be­tween joy and nos­tal­gia of our mem­o­ries and the ex­cite­ment of our fu­ture,” she said. “We’ve all been pa­tiently wait­ing

for this day for four years, and now sud­denly we want to press pause. We want to slow it down to ap­pre­ci­ate these last fleet­ing mo­ments, be­cause once we toss our caps into the air, there’s no go­ing back.”

Hayat also asked her class­mates to re­flect on the legacy of the re­cently de­ceased box­ing leg­end Muham­mad Ali, who gave up his ti­tles in or­der to protest his con­scrip­tion into the Viet­nam War.

“While we may all have dif­fer­ent be­liefs, we should all try to em­body his fight­ing spirit,” she said. “Like Ali, we should re­lent­lessly pur­sue the ver­sion of our­selves that we want.”

Mean­while, class vale­dic­to­rian Chris­teen Fer­nando, who earned a 5.025 weighted GPA and will at­tend Tow­son Univer­sity in the fall, be­gan her ad­dress with a joke.

“Hello fam­ily, friends, hon­ored guests, board of­fice mem­bers and ev­ery­one else who as­sumed I was a for­eign ex­change stu­dent through­out high school,” she said. “Now you may think that be­cause I’m up here, I must have val­ued my grades above all else, but in re­al­ity the most im­por­tant thing I’ve learned in high school is to live in the mo­ment and cher­ish the peo­ple in your life.”

Fer­nando urged her class­mates to try to fo­cus on “the stars rather than the dark night sky,” giv­ing thanks for their bless­ings rather than curs­ing their headaches. She also re­galed the wis­dom of SpongeBob SquarePants, Elk­ton High School grad­u­ate Clay­ton Price poses with his fam­ily fol­low­ing Fri­day’s com­mence­ment. Elk­ton High School vale­dic­to­rian Chris­teen Fer­nando ad­dresses her class­mates dur­ing Fri­day’s com­mence­ment cer­e­mony.

the pop­u­lar car­toon char­ac­ter, who once quoted Dr. Seuss in say­ing, “You never know the true value of a mo­ment un­til it be­comes a mem­ory.”

On the vis­i­tor’s side of the

Elk­ton High foot­ball sta­dium, the Price fam­ily could eas­ily be spot­ted wear­ing per­son­al­ized pink T-shirts for their son, Clay­ton.

Lauri and Wil­liam Price said they were proud to see

Clay­ton, who has spe­cial needs, grad­u­ate, but a lit­tle sad that he will leave the school to be­gin work­ing at Bay­side Com­mu­nity Net­work in North East full time.

“I think Elk­ton High was fab­u­lous,” said Lauri, who dropped Clay­ton off for school ev­ery day for years. “They did a great job with our son.”

Mean­while, Matt Ruark was en­joy­ing the cel­e­bra­tion of the day with his daugh­ter, Kris­ten.

“I proud and re­lieved,” he said of his mid­dle child, who will at­tend West Vir­ginia Univer­sity in the fall to study psy­chol­ogy. “My youngest is in ninth grade here at Elk­ton High. We like it here. I’m a strong be­liever of the School of Tech­nol­ogy program here, where Kris­ten took the cos­me­tol­ogy program. It kept her busy, fo­cused and out of trou­ble. She re­ally ex­celled.”

Af­ter the cer­e­mony, Sha­reeda Nieves was cel­e­brat­ing the grad­u­a­tion of her son, Ky’air Cook, with a large col­lec­tion of fam­ily mem­bers. Cook is set to at­tend Univer­sity of Mary­land East­ern Shore next fall, where he will play bas­ket­ball and ma­jor in busi­ness man­age­ment.

“I have a lot of mixed emo­tions right now,” she said of her sec­ond child to grad­u­ate. “It’s bit­ter­sweet, be­cause while he grad­u­ated, now he’s go­ing off to col­lege.”


Samir Khalil Kin­sey poses af­ter re­ceiv­ing his Elk­ton High School diploma.

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