More than 400 C. Milton Wright High School graduates walked across the stage Tuesday at the APG Federal Credit Union Arena at Harford Community College.
"As class president, I am privileged to represent an exceptional class," Samuel Lewis, president of the senior class, said in his opening remarks to the Class of 2013.
Lewis spoke about the class' many achievements, including earning nearly $10 million in college scholarships.
"The Class of 2013 has brought new school-wide positivity and spirit throughout the halls of C. Milton," he said.
Principal Marlene Molter shared the Greek word "meraki" with the graduates.
"It's when you put something of yourself into what you're doing, wholeheartedly," she said.
Holli Rutkowski, vice president of the senior class, announced the class gift, a $4,000, 74-inch tall bronze statue of the school's mascot, the mustang.
"It's a symbol of our athleticism, sportsmanship, intelligence, maturity... it will also stand as a reminder to every class after us of the high expectations we have set for them, encouraging them to be the best that they can be," Rutkowski said.
They also heard from co-valedictorians Paul Burke and Mauricio Tassano, who had the same grade point average of 4.28.
"You must strive for more, you must strive for the better; you must meet the unknown head on," Burke said.
Tassano told his classmates: "As we go on in life we must be driven, persistent and most of all have faith that hard work is ultimately rewarded."
A number of local officials offered words of wisdom to the graduates, including Harford County Board of Education member Alysson Krchnavy, state Sen. Barry Glassman, state Del. Donna Stifler, Harford County Director of Administration Mary Chance and County Councilmen Richard Slutzky and James McMahan.
Krchnavy told them that when they get to the beach, to "make sure that your phone number turns up on your parents' phones; call home and when you call home tell them that you appreciate them."
Krchnavy encouraged the graduates to "stand up for your country" and to "just give up some of your time and talent to make this world better."
"You walk up here like you deserve it, like you earned it, because you did and you do," she concluded. "God bless each and every one of you, congratulations!"
Glassman encouraged audience members to visit the Maryland State House in Annapolis, the oldest operating state house in the country.
He said there is a space on the bottom floor where Gen. George Washington resigned his commission as commander of the Continental Army following the American Revolution.
"On that day Washington told them to go out and be a blessing to the country, and I would sort of charge you with the same thing, but I would also ask you to remember that even from the 1700s, freedom hasn't been free," Glassman said.
Stifler said she determined what she would tell the graduates while recuperating from a broken foot.
"I was going to say to you what I wish someone had said to me, and what I've tried to say to my daughters: 'Bloom where you're planted,' she said. "What does that mean? That's up to you."
Chance said the "most important gift" the graduates' parents had given them was their names.
She asked them to think about someone who was important to them.
"You want to be sure that that person, when they say your name, knows that you have earned their respect," Chance explained.
Slutzky told the graduates: "Whatever it is that you choose to do, strive to do it well, or better yet, try to do the very best that you can at whatever it is you choose to do; read, explore, investigate just for the sheer fun of it."
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McMahan pantomimed throwing a large object to the graduates.
"I just threw you the future," he said. "I'm trusting you to take good care of it."
Christine Stammel, of Bel Air, cheered when her daughter's name, Lydia Capirichio, 18, was called.
She called her by her nickname, "sweet face."
"I'm over the moon and so excited for her," she said.
Stammel said her daughter is her only child and will be studying at Harford Community College in the fall.
"She's just grown into such a beautiful person; I couldn't be more proud of her," Stammel said.