They've been there from the beginning, and now, seven years later, the "original Huskies" celebrated their final moment as students at Patterson Mill Middle and High School in Bel Air.

Although the young school marked its fifth high school commencement Monday, most members of the Class of 2014 who walked across the APG Federal Credit Union Arena stage at Harford Community College were the first group to have attended the joint middle-high school for the entire seven years of their secondary education.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience not experienced by many people across the country, let alone in Harford County," Principal Sean Abel, who joined Patterson Mill this year, told the roughly 230 soon-to-be-graduates in front of him.

Abel marked the occasion by bringing back the school's popular, original principal, Wayne Thibeault, as well as other administrators who were there at the school's beginning.


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They also bought special white cowls to add to the students' teal or black caps-and-gowns, Abel said.

"This class, more than any other, have left their mark upon the school," Abel said. "I sure wish I had more than a year to get to know you."

Students including Emily Yanky and Samantha Wuerfl said their long tenure at Patterson Mill left an impression and that Thibeault helped make it dynamic.

"It was nice seeing the same people every day," Samantha said. "Our old principal had a very energetic personality."

Emily said: "He made you want to come to school." She added that Abel does as well.

"I'm glad I spent the last seven years with the same people," Emily said.

She plans to attend Frostburg University after college, while Samantha is deciding between a fashion school in New York and West Virginia University.

Taylor Kelly pointed out his homeroom teacher from sixth grade, at the head of his line of students in the room where they were gathered before the ceremony.

"It's cool. It makes it a little more special," Taylor, who is going to West Virginia University to study international business and German, said about the teachers who had returned.

'Humbling experience'

Taylor called graduation "a humbling experience."

His friend, Christian Jenkins, said he did not "really feel anything in particular, but it's going to be a shock waking up tomorrow realizing I don't have to come to school anymore."

Christian plans to study engineering at Harford Community College. While he is glad for the friends he made at Patterson Mill, he also said, "There are also some people I want to get away from."

Morgan Webster, who is going to Anne Arundel Community College to become a pastry chef, said she is ready to move on and excited about graduating.

"I am ready to be done with Patterson Mill and take the next step forward in life," she said.

Malik Bonds said graduation was "bittersweet."