C. Milton Wright High School's graduating class clearly appreciates both hard work and a good time, as shown by two events during Wednesday's commencement exercise: a standing ovation for the scholastic achievements of valedictorian Michael Natoli, and an illicit beach ball that was gleefully tossed around during the ceremony until it was discovered.
"We know the Class of 2012 is awesome, but our future doesn't know that yet," Natoli told his classmates, citing an interesting numerical fact about the class.
"How many people can say they finished fifth grade in 2005, eighth grade in 2008 and 12th grade in 2012?" he pointed out.
Natoli was cited by Principal Marlene Molter for having a 4.41 grade point average and taking 13 Advanced Placement classes. She said he will attendUniversity of Maryland, College Park, in the fall with hopes of pursuing atmospheric and oceanic science.
He said he and his classmates have come a long way and have truly grown since they entered school.
"We are a very small class compared to the average class that goes into C. Milton Wright," he said. "We have all grown a lot in high school, and I am not talking about the physical type [of growth]."
The 321 graduates leaving C. Milton this year celebrated their next step in life at Bel Air High School, down the street from their own campus.
Although the two schools may be rivals in sports, C. Milton students did not seem bitter about graduating in a different building.
"A lot of my friends go here, so it's fine," Jess Canami said with a big smile, furiously twirling her academic cords as she waited in the cafeteria before the ceremony.
Canami said she will play soccer and softball at York College, and hopes to major in biology but thinks she wants to do athletic training.
She has only positive memories about her time in high school.
"C. Milton was pretty awesome," she said.
About graduation, she said: "It's, like, bittersweet. It's hard to leave your friends."
Mahnoor Hamayun was another student waiting in line in the cafeteria, more quietly.
She said she was "very nervous" about graduating, but has plans to go to Harford Community College and transfer toUniversity of Maryland, College Park, to ultimately pursue computer science.
About college, she said: "I think it would be hard, and will take time to get used to, like, the routine."
"I hope to do my best," she added.
Hamayun also enjoyed her years at C. Milton Wright.
"I loved my time," she said. "I loved the teachers; they are really nice."
Meanwhile, Julien Kirnes was more nonchalant about the whole thing, explaining he has already been taking classes at Harford Community College.
He said he ultimately hopes to go to Towson University, probably to study computer science and mass communications.
"It's starting a new chapter, that's all I can say," Kirnes observed about graduation.
Like Canami, he has no problem with graduating at Bel Air High instead of his own school.
"It's common ground. We are all getting out of high school," he said.
Molter, the principal, reminded students to become "forces with which to be reckoned" by using an analogy about Newton's three basic laws of physics.
Citing the law of a body in motion remaining in motion and one at rest remaining at rest, she explained: "If you wait for the opportunity to come to you, you are probably going to stay in that same sitting position."
She urged students to study harder to overcome obstacles.
"In the 1960s, man finally conquered [earth's] gravitational pull," she said. "I have seen so very often that those who seem to have the most baggage, despite overwhelming circumstances, end up being the most successful."
Alysson Krchnavy, a board of education member, said she remembers many of the students from elementary school.
"Many of you here were awfully cute Hickory squirrels and man, what mighty fine Mustangs you turned out to be," she said, also encouraging them to work hard in life.
"I am a procrastinator and a perfectionist. That has to be one of the worst combinations out there," she joked. "You need to work hard for anything and everything that's worthwhile. People will no longer give you awards and certificates for participation."
County Administration Director Mary Chance advised students to hold values like responsibility, empathy, patience and caring, as well as to "trust God, because he is trusting in you."
She asked students to close their eyes and think of three people they respect or admire, then pointed out that they probably thought not only of the people's faces, but their names.
"When someone says your name, they will remember you for who you are," she said. "It's your name that carries that, so guard that carefully."
County Councilman Dick Slutzky reminded students of the importance of the day.
"Graduation is the quintessential rite of passage. Probably no other event in your life will signal as much as a graduation does," he said. "Remember as you grow in your life, to give back to others just as they have given to you. Always show more kindness than seems necessary."