Aberdeen High School seniors soared Tuesday night at the school's 104th commencement ceremony.
Nearly 300 students received their diplomas and ventured into their next chapters in lives.
Before the 2012 graduating class took the stage in the school's gymnasium that evening, the young men and women in blue and yellow robes lined up along lockers on the second floor.
Science and Math Academy student Hunter Bachman said he was glad to move on from AHS and to the University of Delaware to study mechanical engineering, but would miss the people.
Hunter is part of the fifth class to graduate from the academy at AHS.
The 17-year-old graduated as part of the National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society and as a Maryland State Scholar and wore the cords around his gown proudly.
Richard Albert, also a Maryland State Scholar, is also moving on to great things.
Albert said he plans to attend Harford Community College for the first two years of his college career then transfer to University of Maryland or Towson University and eventually earn his master's degree in chemical engineering.
"I have a lot of friends going out of state," he said. "I'll miss them." The 18-year-old commented that one friend will be serving in theU.S. Navy, another will be going to New York and another friend will be moving to California to pursue acting.
Special education inclusion helper Heather Woods-Stong stood with Shanise Johnson and another graduating student at the bottom of the stairs, waiting to join the line.
"I feel great," said the 18-year-old graduate. Johnson wasn't sure what she was going to do since her high school career had come to an end, but said she would miss her friends.
Woods-Stong was a little emotional that night.
"It's exciting and sad at the same time," she said, saying that she was about to see "my girls," nephew and a few other students she's gotten to know over the years leave the school.
Principal Michael O'Brien greeted gradates, faculty, friends and family to the ceremony to witness the Class of 2012 "achieve one of life's milestones."
Senior Class President Belawoe Akwakoku said it best when he said: "This day has been greatly anticipated" by everyone in attendance, including his mom and dad, whom he thanked.
Over the past four years, Belawoe continued, he and the rest of the student body have overcome challenges, "socially and academically."
"Perseverance is the theme of this class," he said. The challenges they've faced together were ones that "truly prepared us for the rest of our lives."
The class president declared, "Each and every one of us has the potential to be great," as well as "the potential to change the world."
Challenges and how someone responds to them is what makes a person, Belawoe said.
"No successful person," he said, "took the easy road." The greatest thing to remember is "that there is no obstacle you cannot overcome."
Dereje Admasu, another graduating senior, also spoke about success and how each person who strives for it defines that word differently.
"We are all not so different," he said. "We all want one thing, and that is success."
Some define success by a college degree, others by careers, but the most important thing is to define that term for yourself.
"You must chase it and hold it with all of your will," Dereje said about success.
AHS business teacher Laura Loughlin shared what the students taught her instead of offering words of wisdom.
Loughlin said she became a national board-certified teacher last year and endured a lot of hard work and self-reflection during the process.
In her classrooms, she said, has been "a wealth of diversity" and has taught students who come from numerous places around the globe.
"I found that getting to know you enables me to help you succeed," the teacher said, but getting to know the students can sometimes be difficult.
Despite this, Loughlin continued, "When I get to know you, I see your worth." Becoming closer with the students allowed her to "learn to appreciate your individualism."
Science and Math Academy teacher Yvonne Gabriel gave somewhat of a non-traditional speech, but one that was just as pertinent.
"Please indulge me in one more lesson," she began.
She asked the students to think about their personal brands and how others perceive them.
One's "brand," Gabriel said, is something that will get the students through doors and to their prospective careers.
"Do you know how you've been branded?" she asked. Would people wonder how they treat others or if they are honest, she wondered. "Do others think you're passionate or passion less?"
What defines each person, Gabriel said, is their personal brand, and "sometimes it's those little things that are so big in defining you."
She also asked the students to think twice about what they post on social media websites.
"Remember, it's all about perception," Gabriel said. "Let everybody know how amazing we already know you are."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun