Most people settle for a "safe, average" life because they are afraid, Matthew James Walker said with a steady, confident voice.
Walker, one of the graduates, told the Class of 2015 that is leaving Fallston High School to never let fear hold them back.
"Once you walk out of those doors, you will be able to do whatever you want to do at this point in your life," he said from the stage at Harford Community College's APG Federal Credit Union Arena, where Fallston High's seniors graduated midday Thursday.
"Do yourselves a favor and keep chasing your dreams," he told those in the audience, reassuring them that fear is meant to protect them, not hold them back.
"So many people are afraid of what happens, if they put everything into what they love, and fail," he said. "Don't be afraid to be extraordinary."
The 249 members of Fallston's Class of 2015 seemed more excited than afraid Thursday. In their brown or white caps and gowns, peering out at their friends and relatives, the seniors seemed eager to embrace their futures head-on.
"I am just really excited to get out of here," Hannah Sample said before the ceremony. She has plans to play rugby and study criminal justice at West Chester University.
Although ready to be done with high school, she would remember "all the friendships that we have made."
She was standing with Nicole Kalver, who will be going farther away, to pursue pharmacy at the University of Rhode Island.
"It's really bittersweet," she said about graduation day. "I am really happy but I am sad at the same time."
Several students said they enjoyed the chance to meet different kinds of people.
"I will never forget the people here," Dustin Kinser, who is going to Harford Community College to study chemistry and physics, said.
Shawn Frank, who will be going to Towson University and hopes to do "something medical," said: "It's been fun. I met a lot of mentors, and I met a lot of nice people who helped me with life experiences."
He was among those excited to graduate and go to college. Standing with him was Skylar Bodt, who, like Shawn, was a member of several honor societies and had enjoyed playing sports at Fallston.
She played soccer, indoor track and outdoor track and received 11 varsity letters. She will be going to the College Park Scholars program at University of Maryland, College Park, and plans to major in biology.
"I am excited to just move on to the next step, be more independent, have more opportunities, meet new people," she said.
Sen. J.B. Jennings, who represents the area, noted his relative, Hayley Cassedy, in the soon-to-be-graduating class. He told the class that their life now fits the story of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," which they may have read when they were much younger.
"Over the next hour, that magical transformation is going to take place with each of you, whether you know it or not," Jennings told them.
Del. Pat McDonough, meanwhile, said the only point he wanted to make was: "We were all blessed and had the great gift to be born into the greatest country in the history of the world."
He asked students if they want to be just "residents" or if they want to be "a super citizen of Maryland, Harford County, United States."
Senior class president Hannah Loynds told her classmates they did everything from taking part in Fallston's first Ice Bucket Challenge to showing their artistic talent with a mosaic at the school.
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"This has been the fastest and most bittersweet year of my life," she said.