The 191 students who graduated from Joppatowne High School Tuesday night come from many walks of life and have a variety of plans for the future.
At the ceremony at the new APGFCU Arena at Harford Community College, student speakers reminded their fellow graduates they can achieve whatever they want in life.
April Kinyua, president of the Student Government Association, told her classmates they will remember the friends they made.
"This is the last time we are going to spend together," she said. "Joppatowne has helped me become who I am, as I hope it did for you all."
The world today is very different from the one students encountered when they were younger, but they have what it takes to succeed, valedictorian Natasha Ash said.
"We all face challenges in life, we all face different things," she said. "In the end, we all just began our new lives by graduating today."
She paraphrased a quote from the movie "Brave," telling students: "Our fate lives within us. You only have to be brave enough to see it."
Class president Aji Jobe said she has learned "so much" at Joppatowne, but the most important lessons have come from interacting with people there.
"The most relevant lessons we learn are from the people we surround ourselves with and those lessons last forever," she said. "Each of you have brought something to the school that has made it worthwhile and relevant."
Other students who were rushing to take their places before the ceremony said they have good memories of their time at Joppatowne.
"It was fun. It has ups and downs but at the end, you end up having a good time," Sean Bailey, who is going to Harford Community College to study criminal justice, said.
Jasmine Taylor, who will go to Towson University to pursue physical therapy, called graduation "a special time" and said she is excited.
High school, she said, "was definitely different from what everybody said - the classes, the drama. It was a great experience and you have known these people since pre-school. I just want to go to college and meet some new people."
Several elected officials at the ceremony reminded the graduating class of Joppatowne's proud history.
State Del. Rick Impallaria told students he was a fellow Mariner from the C lass of 1980, recalling a time when the drinking age was 18 and computers had just been introduced in schools, "which could basically do nothing except type your name."
Impallaria was one of four state officials at the ceremony, held in the new APG Federal Credit Union Arena, the most to grace a Harford County graduation, according to County Councilman Dion Guthrie.
"In my 11 years coming to these graduations, this is the first time I have seen such a collection from out of state and out of Annapolis," Guthrie said, asking the audience to give them a round of applause.
The other state officials were Del. J.B. Jennings, Del. Pat McDonough and Sen. Barry Glassman.
Guthrie likewise reminded the graduates that times have changes since he first moved to Joppatowne in 1966.
"When I moved in, Joppatowne High School wasn't even there. The high school didn't open until 1973," he said.
Guthrie told graduates the day was just the beginning of a lifetime of learning.
"Your education never stops. When you walk out the door, it's just starting," he said.
School board member Bob Frisch said he just read a column in The Aegis about graduates not remembering graduation speeches, but said he nevertheless felt honored to be part of the ceremony.
"I truly feel privileged to be here and included in a celebration of your accomplishments," Frisch said. "Without a doubt, this is the best part of being a school board member."
"Thank you again for letting me share your well-deserved recognition," he said.
Jennings told students they should consider themselves fortunate.
"Whatever you do, you are in charge of your own destiny; it's up to you," he said. "You have been given one of the greatest educations in the world, in one of the greatest school systems in the world."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun