QACHS grads start their new adventure
CENTREVILLE — Though the threat of thunderstorms forced a change in location for the 2015-2016 Queen Anne’s County High School graduation, it didn’t change the celebratory mood of the friends, families and graduates at the school on Friday, June 3.
Dressed in white and green robes, 242 high school seniors filled the school’s gymnasium and waited through speaker after speaker to finally hear their name called and to have the opportunity to walk across the stage to receive their diploma. As they waited, seated in alphabetical order across the Jody Hyde basketball court, a sea of multi-colored, quote-filled and brightly designed graduation caps could be seen. The phrase, “Smell Ya Later,” from the television show “Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” made an appearance atop one cap.
But before the culmination of four-years of homework, tests, theater productions, sporting events, art shows and everything in between could be realized, speakers had some final words for the soonto-be graduates.
Queen Anne’s County High School Principal Jacquelyn Wilhelm said Friday’s graduation was the most difficult one to get through because the class meant so much to her. Wilhelm said she had spent four “momentous” years with the students and for half the class, she said, had the pleasure of being their middle school principal. Wilhelm said she had worked some with since elementary school and one she has known since birth.
“I am sharing these final words not just as your principal but as someone who has watched you grow and develop over the years.
Someone who is truly invested in your success. Someone who will miss you dearly,” Wilhelm said. “I want you to know I am so very proud of each and every one of you — whether your high school path was been blazed with success after success or whether we struggled through it together to get you to this stage. You have all made it.”
Wilhelm said that though their high school careers were about to be finished, endings lead to new beginnings. Though bittersweet, she said, closure provides an opportunity to reflect upon the memories created and the activities championed.
“Remember the influence they have had on your life. You have experienced both joys and sorrows. You have opened your hearts and your minds, acquiring both knowledge and compassion,” she said. “Embrace who you have become and be proud.”
Superintendent Dr. Carol Williamson recalled changes in everyone’s daily lives as society moved into the 21st century. Terms like “selfies” and “memes” have become common; social media has become the “new norm” for social gatherings; smart phones have emerged as a tool not only for phone calls, but for various means of communication and application uses. Williamson said all these changes happened in the students’ lifetime with many more advancements and technological initiatives to come.
“After today, many more things are about to change as you leave the safety of home and high school. It is difficult not being able to predict what you will face in the future, but I can assure you of one thing,” Williamson said. “You have been well-prepared by your parents and your teachers to face and overcome whatever challenges you meet.
“My generation is in the hands of your generation. And looking out at you tonight I feel pretty good about that,” she said.
Tracking the graduates’ progress through the years, Williamson listed some statistics for the class of 2016: more than $3 million in scholarships was awarded; 97 people were in dual-enrollment courses at Chesapeake College; 50 percent of the class had a 3.0 grade point average or higher; 30 percent planned to attend a four-year university or college; 70 percent of the class planned attend a two or four-year university or college; and multiple students enrolled in the armed forces.
Williamson touched on the successes of the sports programs as well as the plays and musicals the theater department produced.
Wilhelm said 18 students became certified nursing assistant; six became licensed cosmetologists; five students received a certificate in biomedical sciences; six received auto loan certifications; eight received welding certifications; nine received level one masonry certificates; 11 received carpentry certificates; four received Microsoft Office certificates; five students were certified in fire one; five people joined the three different branches of the armed forces; and 28 people graduated with a 4.0 GPA or higher.
Salutatorian Alexandria Wilhelm said the class had encountered all sorts of things in their years inside and outside the school walls, and through triumph or tragedy, she said, “we go through it.”
Delaney Ross, co-valedictorian with Grace Steffens, told the class that they had looked forward to this day for all of their lives and that now they are looking back at the achievements and failures that got them to the point of graduation. Though friends may have been lost along the journey, friends were also gained in the process, she said. Ross said her classmates should stand up for themselves and to not let people walk over them because they have the choice of what they want to become and how they want to spend the rest of their lives. Steffens told her peers to not let the past four years become the best of their lives and that whatever path each chooses to venture down to go do it well and sticking to their integrity will go a long way. She told the class to never sit back and to never settle.
Class President Grayson Middleton told her classmates to not live a life of “I wish” but one of doing things they never thought were possible. Middleton said the place they have gone for countless days, Queen Anne’s County High School, will no longer be a part of their every day lives after graduation but that “Wherever we go ... don’t forget you were a Lion.”
After all the student speakers, the school’s choir sang “Unfinished Songs” to the graduating class. And before the seniors walked out of the gymnasium one last time, after turning their tassels and celebrating with classmates under falling confetti, the class sang the school fight song together one last time.
“Someone once said the last step of every journey is the first step of a new adventure,” Wilhelm said. “Your journey at Queen Anne’s County High School has ended, but the adventure that is the rest of your life has just begun.”
Follow Mike Davis on Twitter: @mike_kibaytimes.
Honored speakers, from the left, Queen Anne’s County High School 2016 valedictorians Delaney Ross and Grace Steffens and salutatorian Alexandria Wilhelm prepare to enter the school’s gymnasium for commencement, Friday evening, June 3.
Confetti flies above the graduates inside the Queen Anne’s County High School gymnasium, Friday evening, June 3, as the commencement ends. Though the ceremony had to be moved indoors because of threatening weather, it did not dampen the spirits of the graduates and the celebration.
Leading the procession of graduates at Queen Anne’s County High School, Friday evening, June 3, from the left, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Carol Williamson and Principal Jacquelyn Wilhelm, followed by Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Gregory Pilewski and QACHS Academic Dean Tracy Kenna.
Three of the many Queen Anne’s County High School senior girls, from the left, Shelby Billips, Julia D’Ambrosio and Emily D’Orsaneo proudly hold their diplomas during commencement, Friday evening, June 3.