BY DAVID ANDERSON, firstname.lastname@example.org
6:20 AM EDT, June 5, 2013
Toward the end of Tuesday's graduation ceremony, Bel Air High School Principal Gregory Komondor invited the 405 graduating seniors to "move their tassels and forever be the Bel Air High School Class of 2013."
The graduates sitting in the high school's gymnasium for the 198th annual commencement did just that, moving the tassels on their mortarboards from the right to the left in accordance with graduation tradition.
The ceremony was one of a slew of Harford County high school graduations taking place this week.
Graduates Sarah Schulte and Julia Streett gave the student addresses for the evening.
Schulte said high school graduates are often considered the future.
"I'm calling a bluff because we're not the future any more," she said. "We're the present; seize the day because today is our day."
Streett said that, "above all else," the members of the Class of 2013 must be good people.
"Even if we end up useless and destitute in this world, we will be good and that will be noticed," she said.
Xuan Thanh-Nguyen Bui was the class valedictorian.
"May your path be a smooth flight and if your path encounters turbulence I know you have what it takes to soar again in no time," she told her classmates.
Gabriella Zakrocki, senior class president, announced her class's gift, a contribution to a fund started by the Class of 2011 to replace the school's marquee with a larger one.
"We hope the school and community will cherish this gift as much as we will cherish our years as Bel Air Bobcats," she said.
Peggy Morrissey had traveled two-and-a-half hours from her home in Delaware to see her grandson, Patrick Ayers, receive his diploma.
"I'm so proud of him, it's unreal," she said. "He's great, a great kid."
Rhonda Scott of Bel Air cheered as her niece's name, Savannah Gatton, was called.
"She can do anything she wants," Scott said. "She has ambition; she just has to make a decision on what she wants to do."
Hope Daugherty and Chrissy Krach, both 17, gathered outside with their fellow graduates, looking for their parents.
"One day doesn't make you a grown-up but it kind of makes you feel like it for a while," Hope said of the ceremony.
Chrissy said she was "excited for stepping forward to college."
Her mother, Tammy Krach, was also excited for her youngest daughter.
"I'm thrilled for her because great things are waiting for her," Krach said.
A number of elected and appointed officials serving Harford County shared their wisdom and life lessons with the Bel Air graduates.
Board of Education member Alysson Krchnavy echoed sentiments she had expressed during C. Milton Wright's graduation earlier, encouraging them to show appreciation to the parents and teachers who had helped them along the way.
"Live up and pay up by acknowledging the sacrifice that they made for you," Krchnavy said.
She said told them that when they arrive at the beach or other destination, they should place a call to their parents.
"Don't text, don't send a picture; let them hear your voice," Krchnavy said.
State Sen. J.B. Jennings shared statistics on how much an average student experiences during his or her time in Maryland public schools, from 48 report cards to more than 7,000 quizzes, tests and reports.
Jennings also urged the graduates to thank their parents, but stressed the graduation ceremony, to many, "signifies your transformation from a child to an adult."
"From now on your destiny is up to you," he said. "You are the captains of your ships."
Del. Donna Stifler, who is a Bel Air graduate and also spoke at the C. Milton Wright graduation, shared how she injured her foot and spent several weeks recuperating and thinking about what she would say during the commencements.
"It hit me like a ton of bricks, or a wooden cutting board if you will," she said, joking about the cutting board which had fallen and broken her foot.
"Wherever you are, bloom," Stifler advised.
"Do all you can to be a blessing, because you would not be here if there were not blessings laid in your path already," she added.
Mary Chance, Harford County's director of administration, spoke on behalf of the county government and Harford County Executive David Craig.
She also shared the same advice she had imparted to the C. Milton graduates.
"Your name is the most important thing your parents have ever given you and the most important thing you will ever have, because you're in charge of protecting it," Chance explained.
She also cited a passage from pastor and author Charles R. Swindoll about attitude.
"'The longer I live the more I realize the impact of attitude on life,'" Chance quoted.
County Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti encouraged the graduates to "always listen to that voice, that inner voice inside of you, because that will guide you," and to "take a moment and say 'thank you' to the very important people that supported you throughout your life."
Komondor then thanked the teachers, administrators and maintenance staff at Bel Air for their work with the students, and ultimately the parents "for letting me be a part of your children's lives for the three years I've been here."