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Laughs, cheers and tears on last day of school at Winters Mill

There were laughs, cheers and even a few tears Thursday at Winters Mill High School, as some students prepared for summer, seniors for college and careers and some teachers for retirement.

There were laughs, cheers and even a few tears Thursday at Winters Mill High School, as some students prepared for summer, seniors for college and careers, and some teachers for retirement.

Junior Gina Alasha was excited for a status elevation that was less than an hour away as she sat in her lunch mod, the second to last mod of the day.

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"I am really excited to be a senior," she said. "Next year I am going to go to the [Carroll County Career and Technology Center] for nursing and I will be taking a class at [Carroll Community College] or two. Just planning for my future and it's really exciting."

Tanner Tobias, another junior, was excited about attending the biomedical science program at the Career and Technology Center in the fall, but for the day, he was relived to have his junior year behind him.

"I'm glad finals are done, all that stress is out the window, I am feeling happy," he said. "I have algebra two to return to and we aren't doing anything — we just reviewed our finals, going over questions we missed. Pretty easy day."

The final moments of her sophomore year were mixed for Elizabeth Shirley, who said that as much as she loved summer, she also loves school and learning.

"[I'm] kind of nervous but kind of excited because summer is finally here and I get to get all this stuff done, but also miss my friends at the same time," she said. "I can't believe half my school career at Winters Mill is over."

The summer won't be entirely unstructured time for Shirley, who said she is interested in a person- and communication-centered career such as teaching or journalism. She has some creative hobbies to keep her occupied.

"I like to make videos, so I might be doing some of that — I might make some videos about my dog, she's the center of my life so that will be fun," Shirley said. "My last class of the day is English with Mr. Holt, who loves to keep us busy so we are working up to the last minute. We are watching 'Fried Green Tomatoes,' where we have to take notes on different aspects of the movie.'"

Summer plans looked very different for Courtney Vaughn. The physical education teacher and lacrosse coach is calling it a career after 14 years at Winters Mill and 31 years in total.

"I am heading to the beach tomorrow, I am relocating after school is over. I will be heading to Rehoboth Beach [in Delaware] to start the next chapter of my life," she said. "I think I am just as excited as the kids are. They are excited to get out for the summer and I am excited to be finished."

In the choral instruction room, the mood was a little more melancholy as the last class of instructor Caren Bezanson sang a final round with her. Bezanson is also retiring after 14 years at the school.

"I have been the choral director at Winters Mill since it opened up 14 years ago. Best job I ever had," she said, tearing up. "I just love the kids and I have loved making music with them and watching them grow up. Now on to other things, but it's time to retire and pass it on to someone who is younger."

Her classes became close like families over the years, Bezanson said, and she often saw many real families, a procession of siblings and cousins, come through the doors of her classroom over the years. The students lined up to hug her as they filed out from the classroom for the last time, teary-eyed as Bezanson encouraged them to "keep singing, keep singing."

That's a final lesson Bezanson plans to take to heart too.

"Oh yes, music is part of my life, I will have to keep singing," she said. "Playing the piano — I'll end up doing that with other adults more than with the kids. But I will miss the kids."

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