A transformative time [Editorial]

thendricks@theaegis.com

Through the cheers, fears and tears of what is an emotional, enlightening and exciting time for all of those touched by a graduation this week is the transformative nature of what so many of these young people are accomplishing.

Chad Shetterly, a 17-year-old member of Aberdeen High School’s Class of 2018, is but one example. He developed a drone program that, in partnership with a 911 dispatch center, can be used to deliver lifesaving medication to a designated location.

In Harford County, as most folks know, one of the most pervasive health crises is the overdose epidemic caused by a wave of those hooked on prescription painkillers and other opioids used as substitutes to feed the addictions.

Life threatening overdoses and deaths are the terrible outcomes of this latest plague. Shetterly tackled it head-on as the Capstone project of his senior year at the Science and Mathematics Academy at Aberdeen High School.

“I needed to come up with a way to deliver the anti-overdose drug Narcan in a short amount of time,” Shetterly said last week.

The fixed wing drone program he devised was on display last week, along with equally exciting projects among the 48 others, during the annual Gallery Walk presented by Science and Mathematics Academy students.

Jacob Kurth, 18, another Science and Mathematics Academy student in Aberdeen High School’s Class of 2018, devised a program that uses 244 LEDs to show brain activity in real time.

“Anyone can use this without scrolling through pages of code,” Kurth said about his project. “It does not require a knowledge of neuroscience any more.”

Beyond the Science and Mathematics Academy, seniors have been graduating this week after doing great things in high school. Shetterly, for example, is the third member of his family to graduate from the Science and Mathematics Academy, but his younger sister, Rachel, is a sophomore at Harford Tech, another magnet school, where she is learning the culinary arts.

“There’s a lot of opportunities in Harford County Public Schools,” Kevin Shetterly, their father, said.

And that’s the point that shouldn’t be overlooked as students and their families celebrate graduations.

Every high school in the Harford school system offers life-changing opportunities for everyone who walks through the doors.

Those opportunities might lead to the development of life-changing technology, or life-enhancing culinary skills. Or those opportunities may only be opening doors to the next stage of education, or to lives and/or careers in the military or directive pathways into careers in the workforce.

Each year when The Aegis covers Harford’s high school graduations, the editors are stuck by one aspect of that stands out above all else: Very strong communities have been formed over the students’ times in each building.

Bonds formed in high school are often hard to forget, and that’s the way it should be. For most, those years are their first experiences of what the life ahead has in store, be it academic or athletic achievement, dating, driving, drama or other extracurricular activities, learning a particular trade or skill that might lead to a trade.

For more than a few, as well, unfortunately, the high school years are the first time a teenage boy and girl will be faced with their own mortality.

This year, three local graduation ceremonies took on a more somber air than is normally expected, as those receiving diplomas at C. Milton Wright and Patterson Mill High schools and The John Carroll School, to remember deceased classmates who could not compete the journey with them.

Because these schools, and others that have suffered similar losses in past, are real communities, the death of a classmate, like much of the high school experience itself, is not something they’ll soon forget, if ever.

So while each student may rejoice upon crossing the stage, extending a hand and receiving a diploma, when the caps go flying, it is our hope also that each young man and young women leaves with feet firmly planted on the ground.

Whatever path each member of the Class of 2018 takes after graduating this week, remember it started with great opportunities in Harford County Public Schools. And those opportunities and what some students have done with them are never on greater display than they are during Graduation Week.

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