Hard work and determination have paid off for two members of the Edgewood High School Class of 2018, as well as their families.
“It’s life changing, words can’t explain it,” graduate Rashard McAllister, 17, of Edgewood, said regarding his thoughts on earning his diploma.
He stood outside the APG Federal Credit Union Arena at Harford Community College after commencement Friday evening, posing for pictures with friends and family.
About 300 EHS graduates crossed the stage Friday.
“Everybody should finish high school, and everybody should receive their diploma because it’s an important thing in life,” McAllister said.
Tevis Robinson said her son had been struggling academically, but he finished high school through the Bridge Plan for Academic Validation.
The Bridge Plan is a Harford County Public Schools program, through which students who have not passed at least one state High School Assessment can complete “Bridge Projects” to help meet graduation requirements, according to the HCPS website.
Her son had been working full time, but he cut back to part time to focus on his education, Robinson said.
“He was very dedicated,” she said. “He was very determined.”
McAllister’s stepfather, Michael Robinson, has raised the young man since he was 2 years old. He expressed pride at seeing how his stepson could “buckle down.”
“He tied up his bootstraps and buckled down,” Robinson said. “That’s all you can ask for your kids as a father, for them to finish what [they] start.”
Gabrielle Shlikas, 18, of Bel Air, earned multiple academic acheivements, including completing the rigorous International Baccalaureate magnet program.
Her hard work paid off with a “full ride” scholarship worth more than $280,000 to cover all expenses through four years at Wellesley College, the prestigious private liberal arts school in Massachusetts.
“I’m a proud mom,” Shlikas’ mother, Abbygail Bruns, said.
“She took a hold of her IB program and got the most out of it,” Bruns added. “She is fully prepared for college.”
Shlikas praised principal Kilo Mack, and Jamie Childs, coordinator of the school’s IB program, for their leadership and support of students.
Shlikas said the 36 IB seniors earned $4.5 million in scholarships, out of the $7.5 million total earned by the Class of 2018.
She gave Childs much of the credit for that achievement, as the coordinator did everything she could to inform the seniors about scholarships and financial aid, plus help them get into college with support such as essay writing workshops and volunteer opportunities.
“It’s given me everything I need,” she said of her experience at Edgewood. “I’m going into college confident that I can succeed.”
During the commencement, Mack highlighted the graduating class’ multiple achievements. He asked seniors who completed rigorous courses, earned top academic honors, have committed to the military or represented EHS through any extracurricular activity to stand and be recognized. Many seniors stood to applause and cheers.
“What an amazing group of students,” he said.
Mack gave the class words of advice from the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who warned about those who “end up sleeping through a revolution” and fail to prepare themselves to navigate times of major social change.
“Don’t sleep because you have made it this far,” Mack said of finishing high school. “Stay woke and be vigilant to the opportunities that are presented to you, for opportunities come from failures as well as successes.”
He said the graduates “will be the problem solvers, the change agents, to meet each challenge head on.” He also urged them to “show gratitude, be humble and always give thanks.”
Naomi Karmel, the class salutatorian, welcomed the audience and led them in saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
Meredith Miller is the class valedictorian. She spoke to the class about the importance of showing gratitude to those who have supported them along the way.
“Most importantly, though, we can show gratitude by constantly striving for self-betterment and giving our supporters reasons to be proud of us,” she said.
Miller said each of her classmates has “aspirations and visions for their futures,” and even those who are undecided know who they want to be and with whom they want to surround themselves.
“I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if this group of people applies their immense passion, dedication and creativity to all of their future endeavors, they will be met with success and joy,” she said.