C. Milton Wright High School Principal Michael Thatcher was briefly overcome with emotion Monday as he made his final official remarks to the Class of 2015, his first graduating class as the Bel Air high school's principal.
"It is truly my sincere hope that high school was a time when you were able to spread your wings in a safe and a nurturing environment," he said during the 33rd annual commencement ceremony, this one in the APG Federal Credit Union Arena at Harford Community College.
He also sought to ease the concerns of graduates who dealt with struggles as they worked through four years of high school.
"Have no fear, strength comes from struggle," Thatcher said. "The struggles you have faced in high school will provide you with the courage to face life with confidence. Your parents and teachers have seen this in you. I have seen this in you."
He told the graduates that, while they have only spent one year together, "as a class, you will always be special to me because you, the Class of 2015, will be my first graduating class at C. Milton Wright High School. Thank you for the awesome opportunity, congratulations."
The graduates also heard from their classmates, including senior class president Kevin Williams, vice president Bernard Chang and valedictorian Ethan Diven.
Williams said his classmates are part of "one of the greatest classes to ever walk the halls of C. Milton Wright. You're a fantastic group of individuals, I love you all!"
Chang said the senior class has raised more than $6,000 toward its class gift to the school, which includes chairs for visitors and dignitaries during school events and banners for light poles on the campus.
"It has been a long and arduous journey, but we can proudly say that we have navigated through this chapter of our lives," he said.
"I'm sad to see all my friends go, but I'm excited for the future," he said.
Walker said his teachers and "camaraderie" with his fellow students were the best parts of attending C. Milton Wright.
Raven Wells, 18, of Bel Air, who will study communications at the University of Maryland College Park, said she was proud to have graduated.
Her father, William Wells Jr., said he was "very proud."
"I know she worked really hard when she was in high school, and I'm just really proud of her," Wells said.
Jodi Richman, of Bel Air, reflected on seeing her oldest child, Tyler, graduate Monday. Tyler, 17, the oldest of three children, will study atmospheric and oceanic science at the University of Maryland.
"I'm excited for his future, and the next four years are going to be the best four years of his life, and I want him to live every moment," she said.
Tyler's father, Keith, also expressed his excitement.
"I'm excited, very proud of him and looking forward to all that he's going to accomplish moving forward," he said.
Tyler said the commencement was "nerve wracking," but also exciting.
"I made a lot of friends and had a lot of great experiences with them, and I'm going to miss that next year," he said of his time at CMW.
Tyler also praised his teachers, including math teacher Laura Potter, Harford County Public Schools Teacher of the Year for 2015-16.