QACHS grads start their new ad­ven­ture

Record Observer - - Front Page - By MIKE DAVIS mdavis@kibay­times.com

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.

PHOTO BY DOUG BISHOP

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.

PHOTOS BY DOUG BISHOP

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.

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