The Hawks of 2014 were finally ready to spread their wings and leave the nest where they have spent the past four years.
North Harford High School graduated its 64th class, with 348 green-and-yellow-clad students walking across the stage in front of a packed APG Federal Credit Union Arena at Harford Community College on Wednesday evening.
Nick Wilson was among those feeling a real sense of accomplishment before the ceremony, as he prepared to finally get his diploma.
Nick said a lot of people did not think he would make it to this moment.
"I feel victorious," he exclaimed.
Despite the long road, Nick, who is headed to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York to study acting, said he met many different people at North Harford and thanked his drama teacher, Nancy Green.
"It was a long, long ride. I got to meet a lot of interesting people, very interesting people," Nick said about his time in high school.
Delaney Allen, a fellow thespian, said she was looking forward to moving on to Towson University to major in film studies.
"I am very excited to graduate," Delaney said with a smile. "I feel complete."
She added North Harford is "a big part of who we are."
The arena was overflowing with friends and family members eager to see their student cross the stage.
Class valedictorian Garrett Sadtler gave his peers a few pieces of advice: "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. We can always improve ourselves. Procrastination is not your friend. Learning is the most important investment we can make. And, life moves fast."
He realized one day he was about to graduate.
"Makes me feel really old," Garrett quipped, getting some laughs from the crowd.
Life in high school definitely flew by for some of his classmates, as Elizabeth Poffenberger said while hanging out with Alexandrya Peterson before the ceremony.
"It went faster than I thought," Elizabeth said thoughtfully about her time at North Harford.
She is going to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona to study global security and was one of the first graduates of North Harford's new ag magnet program.
Elizabeth said the magnet program had some kinks to work out, as "we are the guinea pig year."
Alexandrya noted she is one of the first people in her family to graduate high school.
"It's a shock, actually, for me," she said, adding she plans to go into the Army.
About North Harford, she said: "I love that school. It's one big family."
Elizabeth agreed about the united atmosphere, saying: "There's no cliques."
"Welcome to your commencement," county board of education member Joseph Hau told the soon-to-be graduates seated before him. "What are you going to do next?"
Hau advised them to pursue a career of service, delivering the quote: "You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give."
State Sen. Barry Glassman, who is running for county executive, noted that people's lives can sometimes seem like they are over or hopeless when they can actually still thrive.
"Just because [something] appears to be dead, doesn't mean it is. Don't let those appearances fool you, that you can't achieve what you set out to achieve," he said, quoting former Sen. Bob Hooper: "You will never stand taller than when you are stooped over to help someone."
State Del. Rick Impallaria advised the students to say a prayer in the morning and in the evening.
"There is always someone watching over you, caring about your best interests," he said.
County Councilman Chad Shrodes, a 1992 North Harford graduate, said the school "had a profound impact" on him and taught him to make a difference with hands-on community service.
"Follow your dreams; do what you love. You will always be successful," Shrodes said.