"That is where things begin and today should be your D-Day," she said. "Always remember it starts here, now."

Havre de Grace Mayor Wayne Dougherty, Class of 1968, also reminded the graduates of the school motto. He urged them, as they go through life to "be careful," and also ask difficult questions and not accept things at face value.

"Lead not just with your brain, but your heart," he said.

State Sen. Barry Glassman, Class of 1980, imparted some "country wisdom."

"Number one, a smile goes a long way," he said.

Board of Education member Thomas Fitzpatrick, a 20-year resident of Havre de Grace, gave his first graduation speech Thursday.

He told the graduates to "always remember that you are a product and a student of Havre de Grace," and to cherish the time they spent" in this special place, this harbor of grace."

As each graduate's name was called to receive his or her diploma, friends and family, clapped, cheered and, in some cases, screamed in delight or yelled shout outs to their graduates.

Wanda Wilburn of Havre de Grace closed her eyes and applauded as Tashawn Brown's name was called. She said she is a longtime friend of Brown's mother and has known him almost since birth.

"I love it," she said of his graduation. "I love it."

"He's always been a bright child... I knew he could do it," Wilburn said. "I didn't have any doubts about his graduation."

Bonnie and Hubert Maring drove more than 1,300 miles from their home in York, Neb., to see Robin Placzek graduate.

Bonnie Maring, a relative of Placzek's father, babysat him growing up.

"She's a very sweet person, very caring," she said of Robin.

Placzek, who plans to attend culinary school, gathered outside the school's gymnasium after the ceremony, posing for pictures with her classmates.

"It's mind-blowing; it's crazy, a day you look forward to from ninth grade until now," she said of graduation.

Graduate Mariah Cason, who plans to attend Harford Community College in the fall to study nursing, hugged her friends and family members.

"I'm really exited," she said. "I'm happy; I'm really looking forward to what I'm going to be doing in the future."

Sean Canon said he plans to move to San Diego to work in construction.

"Had a fun time," he said of his high school experience. "But it was serious at the same time, had fun times, a lot of memories."

Watson said graduation was "a really bittersweet experience, but we're going on to bigger and better things."