'We should be proud of ourselves,' Edgewood High valedictorian tells classmates

Parents, teachers and administrators may have brought them to the water of learning, but students were the ones who drank it, Edgewood High School valedictorian Mariah Balmaceno Criss told her fellow seniors preparing to graduate Wednesday.

"We have all taken the opportunity to drink the water and we are here today," Criss said about the educational experience that brought them to the moment of "commencement."

She was about to get her diploma along with the 272 other members of Edgewood's Class of 2013.

They were eagerly seated in front of the stage as hundreds of parents, relatives and friends packed their school gym, which was standing-room only for the event.

At least 100 more people were in the nearby auditorium, watching the graduation on screen.

Criss said students should realize that they contributed to their own success as much as other people did.

"The work hasn't gone unnoticed, and we will walk across the stage as a result of our own personal dedication," she said, adding that motivation from teachers helped, too.

"We should all be proud of ourselves for being here," she said.

The diversity and achievements of Edgewood High students was on display Wednesday night, as the choir sang strong renditions of Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up" and "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Besides the graduates, Principal Larissa Santos recognized the school's six new Hall of Fame inductees.

They include John Bowman from the Class of 1960, Bonnie Morkosky Haden from the Class of 1973, Patricia Procell Wilkins from the Class of 1975 and former staff member Stephen Williams.

Two more inductees, James Murdza and Rosellen Goodrich Richardson, could not make it to the event.

Alysson Krchnavy, a board of education member, told the students she was happy they were all present and accounted for.

"I am just so glad that you all showed up," Krchnavy told them with a big smile. "I have been waiting for this day for a long time, and your parents have been anticipating this day for a long time."

Life, she told the soon-to-be-graduates, "is about showing up."

"Give up your attitude and realize it starts with you, and it ends up with all of us," she said. "Make it work, in the words of ['Project Runway' host] Tim Gunn."

Krchnavy reminded them not to wreck their accomplishments too soon, as did Harford County Councilman Dion Guthrie.

"Tomorrow, you just need to not mess up," Krchnavy said, adding that when students are at the beach or elsewhere, they should make sure to call their parents - call, not text or e-mail.

Guthrie told graduates not to "do anything you're not supposed to."

Other students thanked their families and friends for getting them to where they are.

Kyle DeLancey, class treasurer, noted the students had inherited a "magnificent new school."

"Thanks to all those who worked to make Edgewood the best it could be in 2013," he said.

Josh McFadden, class president, said students "would literally be nothing" without the teachers at Edgewood.

Salutatorian Mutahir Nadeem also said Edgewood has always been a place for diversity and he did not feel alienated as a foreigner.

"We leave here with a greater appreciation of others," he said. "It has been an honor to attend Edgewood High School and I can only hope one day to return the favor."

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