St. Charles High School produces first crop of graduates
Saturday morning, 292 students — most of whom began their careers as students of La Plata, Maurice J. McDonough or Thomas Stone high schools — crossed the stage at North Point High School as graduates of St. Charles High School’s first graduating class.
Paris Mercier, president of the Class of 2016, noted the significance in her student greeting.
“Class of 2016, today we have made history,” Mercier told her fellow graduates.
High school boundaries were redrawn in 2014 with the opening of the new St. Charles High School. Seniors were allowed to finish their final year at the high school they were already attending, but underclassmen affected by the redistricting were instead sent to the new school.
“Two years ago, we were basically enemies,” said valedictorian Amber Williams. “And now … we’ve become a community, and more than a community, a family.”
Williams congratulated her class for creating a legacy that would endure for future generations of St. Charles students.
Salutatorian Jeanne Dela Cruz said the experience of attending St. Charles allowed her to meet people she otherwise might not have met, and changed her life.
“I have met so many inspirational people here that I am proud to call my friends,” Dela Cruz said.
Principal Richard Conley said he met many of the graduating students as McDonough Rams, Thomas Stone Cougars, and La Plata Warriors.
“I could see in your faces a mix of emotions: from excitement at being a part of something new, to sadness, about leaving a place that felt like home, to trepidation about what this new experience would have in store for you,” Conley told graduates. “Two years later … I’m proud to say that each and every one of you has left a mark on our school. You have helped to define what it means to be a Spartan.”
Student Government Association President Tatyana Smith said she came to St. Charles two years ago, after attending high school in Italy. She said she understood how students felt coming a new high school.
“You were upset. You weren’t ready or willing to accept anything new, and you definitely didn’t want to come to this brand new school and start all over. Your old school was such a large part of you that had someone taken a knife to your palm, and made an incision, you’d probably bleed blue and white, purple and orange, or blue and gold,” Smith told graduates, referring to the school colors for Stone, McDonough and La Plata high schools, respectively.
Smith said the change in school forced everyone — herself included — to step out of their comfort zone, which ultimately turned out to be a good thing, as it gave students familiarity with how to thrive amid changing circumstances.
“You may think that the change is too much to handle, but you have already demonstrated that you can do this,” Smith said.
Smith said over time, students came to feel at home in their new school.
“Slowly we all began to take pride in our school and we began to shape it into what we believed it should be, and we started to belong,” Smith said.
Charles County Superintendent Kimberly Hill urged graduates to continue to embrace change.
“All of you have shown perseverance and the resilience to climb this mountain and to move on to new challenges, new struggles and new mountains,” Hill said.
St. Charles High School graduates Leah Kelley, Megan Wynnyk, Hunter Jackson and Micaylah Jones move their tassels from right to left, a tradition signifying graduation, during graduation ceremonies Saturday morning.