Nick Fabula was thinking of his late mother, Julie, as he and his classmates accepted their diplomas and became the newest graduates of Fallston High School Thursday afternoon.
“I couldn’t have done it without her, just the foundation she set for me,” Fabula, 18, of Fallston said after the ceremony. “It’s kind of sad that she’s not here.”
Julie Fabula, 42, died May 19, 2015, succumbing to bone cancer after a nearly three-year battle with the disease. Her family and friends gathered on the Ma & Pa Heritage Trail in October 2015 to dedicate a bench in memory of the avid walker and runner and regular user of the trail.
The bench was installed on the Fallston to Bel Air section just north of its crossing of Heavenly Waters stream.
Nick, the oldest of Julie Fabula’s three children, received his diploma along with about 275 classmates at Fallston’s 39th annual commencement in the APG Federal Credit Union Arena at Harford Community College.
His father, George, and sister, Jillian, were in the audience, and his brother, Owen, performed with the school band during the ceremony.
Nick plans to study engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park, he said after the ceremony. George Fabula said his son remained focused on academics and athletics, even after the loss of his mother. George Fabula emphasized keeping on track as way to “honor your mom.”
“Nick couldn’t have done it without her; she laid the foundation for his academics,” Fabula said. “Even through she’s not physically here, he would not be where he is today.”
He said he is “just truly excited about [Nick’s] future and what’s in front of him.”
Nick also ran cross-country and track for Fallston High’s Cougars.
“It’s a tight-knit community,” Nick said of his alma mater. “All the teachers are very helpful and always there when you need them.”
Graduate Ryan O’Neill, 19, of Fallston, said he plans to take vocational training in welding, and he called Fallston High “a great school.”
“I’m excited to grow up,” he said.
Melanie Duque, 18, of Bel Air, also praised the Fallston High faculty.
“A lot of the teachers actually care about their students, and they make meaningful relationships with them,” she said.
Duque said she plans to study criminology at the University of Maryland, College Park.
“It just feels rewarding to have all these years [in school] and finally graduate,” she said.
Aura Duque praised her daughter’s efforts to finish high school.
“She’s been through a lot of hard work, but she did it and I’m so proud of her,” Duque said.
Class valedictorian Stephen Pupa III led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.
The crowd heard from four student speakers — Principal Richard Jester said later that seniors can submit speeches to read at graduation, and school officials select those that best reflect the class.
Gemma Menges started with an anecdote about putting an app on her smartphone in freshman year that gave a countdown of the days until graduation. She showed it to her mother, which brought her mother to tears over how quickly the days would pass.
Graduation came for Menges and her classmates much more quickly than expected, despite her mother’s warning.
“One day we’re 15 and planning for ‘someday,’ then quietly, without us even noticing, ‘someday’ is here,” she said.
Menges thanked her friends, parents and teachers for their support over the past four years.
“Fallston High’s motto is, ‘A proud tradition of excellence,’ and a sparkle of excellence gleams in the eye of every senior here,” she said. “We as a class have truly lived up to the tradition.”
Cameron Opdyke advised his classmates to treat others with kindness, to never limit themselves “as to what you think you can do or become” and to remember, in a quote attributed to Walt Disney, that “It’s actually quite fun to do the impossible.”
Alyssa Carroll reflected on the years that have passed between when the graduates started kindergarten in 2005 and their last year of high school in 2018.
“This year we made life-changing decisions,” she said. “Guys, here we are, we made it — graduation day!”
Amanda Appel said this year marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of the search engine giant Google, in 1998, and how large a role a technology that allows users to find answers to any question with a keystrokes has played in their lives.
She encouraged her classmates, however, to look inside themselves, in their hearts, where search engines cannot go, when making decisions about their lives.
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“Google cannot tell you what path you should be following or what destination in life you have reached,” Appel said. “Only you can figure out what it is you would like to be doing, only you can find your purpose.”