With major achievements in athletics, academics, fine arts, and a year ago as juniors hosting the senior class ahead of them at the prom in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, thanks to the Spirit of Baltimore dinner cruise ship, Havre de Grace High School's Class of 2013 set a high bar for succeeding classes to reach, according to Class President Monique Watson.
"These large accomplishments are only the start of all the hard work when no one it watching," she said during her welcoming remarks for the school's 126th annual commencement Thursday evening.
Friends and relatives packed the school's auditorium to watch the 165 graduates walk across the stage.
Watson related advice from the school's band director, Richard Hauf, when she told her classmates to conduct themselves throughout their lives with "Warrior pride in our eyes."
Salutatorian Margaret Stump briefly took the audience through the Class of 2013's freshman year to their graduation.
"We have been rocking the heck out of our senior year," she said. "This year was about us; that's what made it so amazing."
Colin Carr, the school's assistant principal, introduced the class valedictorian as "the pinnacle of what Havre de Grace High has to offer."
Valedictorian Brad Davidson said, in his opinion, however, having the highest grade point average in his class did not make him the best person to dispense wisdom to his fellow graduates.
"Instead, I'm going to leave it up to a much higher power: Dr. Seuss," he said.
Davidson read excerpts from the famed children's author's work, "Oh, The Places You'll Go!"
"You have brains in your head," Seuss wrote. "You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go..."
Davidson spoke of Seuss' work, of how it gives the reader a guide to follow their dreams.
"You can still change, and be whoever you want to be on your path to success," he said.
The graduates also heard from local elected and appointed officials, many who are graduates of Havre de Grace High.
The speakers included Harford County Executive David Craig, who graduated in 1967.
Craig said the student speakers "did and excellent job," and hoped they would return to lead the next generation of high schoolers.
"We congratulate you, we bless you, we love you and we wish you all the best, and please come back here and get the next generation going," he told the graduates.
County Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti, a member of the Class of 1985, reminded the graduates of the school's motto: "Enter to learn; leave to serve."
She also noted Thursday was the 69th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, when thousands of American troops and their British and Canadian allies landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, to liberate the French people from their German occupiers.
While many Americans think of the Normandy invasion when they hear the phrase D-Day, Lisanti said D-Day is a typical military term to note the beginning of an operation.
"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."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun