For Madelyn Ball, principal of The John Carroll School, and other school administrators, Saturday's graduation ceremony was "a culmination of a four-year project here at John Carroll."
Ball said during her remarks given at the Harford County Catholic school's 46th commencement, that school administrators develop a "profile" for future graduates when they enter the ninth grade.
"We wrote it a while ago, but it described you to a T," the principal told the graduates, gathered on the Gerry Gray Memorial Field on the school's Bel Air campus.
Spectators sat in the stands, or in the shade along the edges of the field, sheltered from the midday sun and temperatures in the high 80s.
Ball said school officials work to instill four principles into the school's 690 students in grades nine through 12.
The principles include having a strong "sense of self," achieving personal and professional goals, having a "global perspective" and a "moral compass."
Ball noted 87 percent of the 169-member Class of 2013 will attend four-year colleges next year; 96 of the graduates have earned $10,305,392 in scholarships and the senior class has completed 18,240 hours of community service, an average of nearly 108 hours per student.
Each student is required to complete at least 60 hours of community service to graduate.
Ball called it "an example of your appreciation for the common good of your community."
The number of community service hours varied among the graduates; Katlyn Cyphers, of Perryville, completed the most with 432 under her belt.
She received the Service/Outreach Medal during the school's awards ceremony earlier in the week.
Cyphers said after the ceremony she spent the majority of her volunteer hours working with the Freedom Hills Therapeutic Riding Program in Port Deposit, which provides therapeutic horse riding to adults and children with physical and emotional special needs.
"It just makes me feel good, just to help them along and make them feel accomplished," she said of the individuals served by Freedom Hills.
Cyphers plans to attend Johnson & Wales University in the fall.
"It's lovely, it really is," she said of graduating. "It gives me a good feeling, that I know when I set off to my next adventure in college I have the strength of my background at John Carroll just to prop me up and keep me going."
Salutatory, valedictory addresses
Salutatorian Rebecca Ann Driver talked about a recent trip she, 13 classmates and two teachers recently took to Honduras, where they spent eight days working with youths living in a children's home.
"Honduras is beautiful, and a lot of fun, but I didn't go for a vacation," Driver told the audience. "I went to experience what it's like to have less and to gain a deeper appreciation for what I already have."
The salutatorian said she learned she had taken a number of comforts of life in the United States and her experience at John Carroll, for granted.
"None of the schools we saw in Honduras were like John Carroll," she said. "While this wasn't surprising, it did make me reflect on how good we really have it here."
Driver also talked about the accomplishments of the Class of 2013, plus memories of good times with her classmates.
"Sometimes all you need is someone to remind you that nothing is permanent," she said. "Don't take our memories at John Carroll for granted; don't dismiss our high school years, but take pride in what we have done and laugh at the fun times we had."
Valedictorian Claire Zurkowski spoke about Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken," which she said "offers the best inspiration to embrace change."
Zurkowski said Frost's famed work tells the story of "a speaker standing in the front of two equally indefinite paths covered in leaves. He debates which trail to take, knowing that in the future he will run into more circumstances where he must make a blind decision."
She cited the last stanza of the poem, which states: "I shall be telling this with a sigh/Somewhere ages and ages hence/Two roads diverged in a wood, and I/I took the one less traveled by/And that has made all the difference."
Zurkowski stressed the poem does not indicate whether the speaker made the right choice.
"Frost is not saying that we must take a road less traveled and be just like him," she explained. "Rather, the speaker is saying that in order for us to go and make a difference, we must look back on these choices out of our understanding and see that our gut feeling prompted us for a reason."
Vickie Ensor Bands, a 1975 graduate of John Carroll, was the winner of this year's Reverend Charles K. Riepe Alumni Award, and Saturday's graduation speaker.
Bands is director of community outreach and executive director of the HealthLink Primary Care Clinic for Upper Chesapeake Health.
School President Richard O'Hara said the annual award, named for John Carroll's first president, "recognizes John Carroll graduates who have demonstrated outstanding life achievement and community service."
"Vickie leads a vital effort through which health screenings, educational programs and primary medical care are made available to families and individuals in Harford and Cecil counties, many of whom are underinsured, uninsured, or homeless," O'Hara said of Bands.
Before she launched into her speech, Bands had the graduates pat themselves on the back, then stand and face the audience.
"I want you to turn around and I want you to face those people in those stands," she said. "I want you to look at your parents, your grandparents, your aunt, your friends, whoever made it possible for you to be here and I want to hear the biggest, 'Thank you,' on three."
Bands went on to impart the life lessons she had learned to the graduates, and used a jar and various objects to illustrate how to set priorities and to fill their lives with the truly important things.
"Please remember to give back more than you take from this life, and don't blame your parents for everything that goes wrong in your life!" she exclaimed.
Campus Minister Patti Murphy Dohn invited the graduates to take the gold and onyx rings they received during their junior years and turn them, so the logo, which includes the John Carroll chapel, faces out toward a viewer so the graduates can share their experience.
Prior to graduation, the seniors wear their rings with the chapel logo facing them.
Dohn reminded the graduates that, no matter what happens, "God is good, all the time."
"You are forever in the heart of John Carroll," she said. "Don't forget where you came from."