Balance present with future, Perryville grads are told

The seniors of Perryville High School seemed more than ready to walk out onto the field and accept their diplomas.

Perryville's 102nd commencement ceremony Thursday evening was held under blue and sunny skies as loved ones cheered from the bleachers.

Tyler Sheets, 19, was one of the nearly 200 students to graduate that evening.

"I'll remember all my friends," he remarked. Sheets said he was feeling "good" and "a little nervous" before he had to line up for the ceremony.

In the fall, he'll attend Cecil College to study landscaping.

Friends Nikki Leonard, 17, Sallie Brewer, 18, and Mycalah Bryant, 17, chatted in the auditorium, waiting to hear their names called to join the growing line of seniors.

Each has different things they will miss about high school.

Leonard said she will miss being part of the school's choir, a group she had sang in for three years.

"My friends and German class," Brewer commented. She added that she will miss moments spent in the morning on top of her truck in the school's parking lot.

Bryant plans to be an elementary education major at Cecil College and Brewer wants to become a registered nurse. Leonard will take her time finding the right path for her and work in the meantime.

Perryville High Principal Charles Helm commented on many of the accomplishments during the school year - the volleyball team winning the regional championship title, the football team having an undefeated regular season, performances of "Annie Get Your Gun" and the wonderful capstone projects the students completed.

He said the school adopted a new mission: "Respect, teach, learn and succeed," which he added is also the school's motto.

Although they had completed all the tests for that year, it will be "life's tests that teach you lessons" from now on.

Cecil County Board of Education Vice President Donna Zane also congratulated the Class of 2012.

"I wish you all a lifetime of happiness and peace," Zane said.

Senior Class President Zebley Foster reflected on how she and her fellow students have grown over their four years at Perryville High, including how the community came together after the death of track star Cody Richardson last summer.

"Today is our last day as Perryville High School seniors and our first as alumni," Foster said. "Let's show them what we've got."

Salutatorian Andrew Brown gave the graduating class an important piece of advice: "Balance living in the moment and looking to the future because both are equally important."

Brown, who graduated with a 4.47 weighted GPA, will go to University of Maryland in the fall.

Ilya Lazzeri, the class valedictorian, gave a very moving speech that had people in the bleachers tearing up.

Lazzeri, who was part of the school's Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program, said he calls himself "a very ambitious person" who constantly looks to the future.

The future University of Maryland student spent his childhood bouncing from orphanage to orphanage in Russia, he said, "never knowing if I'll see my family again." Because of this, he put up emotional walls and closely guarded his feelings.

Thanks to his aunt, whom he called one of the nicest people he's ever known, he was eventually adopted by a loving family and "discovered my passion for medicine."

Lazzeri, who had a 4.52 GPA, said because of the pain he went through as a child he has realized it is the journey they all take as people that is most important.

"Having plans for the future is a great thing," he said, but added he regrets not focusing on the present enough during his time in high school.

"Find a happy medium," he told the class, "where we can enjoy life without wasting it."

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