The tassels turned and the aerosol string flew onstage at Havre de Grace High School on Thursday evening, when 140 seniors became graduates.
As they graduate, the students all have arrows to point to their futures, co-valedictorians Amaya Caggino and Megan Schall told their classmates.
The arrows work on tension, which they’re all familiar with. Their lives will have even more tension as they begin to navigate a new world, they said, but without it, they won’t be able to succeed.
“Some things require tension to work. It builds up energy day after day until one day it is released,” Caggino said. “When it’s released, an object can propel forward.”
Many of the students graduating may not know the direction they will point their arrows.
“Some of you may become 10 different things before you figure out your true calling,” Schall said.
“And aim your arrow to the destination that suits you best,” Caggino added.
“All of you will achieve some form of success,” Schall said. “Life will bring you happiness as long as you direct your arrow to the correct target.”
Before receiving their diplomas, students heard words of encouragement and advice from a host of elected officials, including Havre de Grace alumni Harford County Executive Barry Glassman and County Council President Patrick Vincenti.
“My Warrior education has never failed me in anything I’ve done,” Glassman said, asking the students to choose to be kind. “Leave to serve. I want you to look out and serve people in the background and people who need a hand up.”
Vincenti, whose grandson was among the graduates, told the students to find something they love, something that they’re passionate about, and pursue it.
“And continue the tradition of giving back,” Vincenti said.
Paige Malinoski started at Havre de Grace High the same year this year’s graduates were freshmen, though the 2019 Harford County Public Schools Teacher of the Year didn’t have many of them in class until they were sophomores.
“You have a special place in my heart,” Malinoski told them. “I only hope I touched your life in a fraction of the way you touched mine.”
They will be leaving the safety of their cocoon that is Havre de Grace High School, their protective shell, she said.
“But the nourishment of the walls in that space have been creating a whole new part of you, you never knew existed,” Malinoski said. “It’s time for you to fly.”
Kayla Sumpter got hugs from her family and friends in the gymnasium after the ceremony.
“I feel good, excited for the next step,” Sumpter said.
The scholar-athlete is going to Howard University in the fall to study computer engineering.
She’s going to miss high school and how easy it was, she said — classes that weren’t that difficult and not having to pay bills, as well as her friends and teachers who are like family because the school is so small.
Her mother, Christa Sumpter, is proud of her daughter and her accomplishments.
“She’s awesome, she’s persevered so much,” Christa Sumpter said.
Jalen Thomas is going to work full-time at Chick-fil-A, when he’s not traveling.
“My first stop is New York,” Thomas said. “I feel good, excited, I feel accomplished. My future is going to be bright, I’m very confident.”
Johnnae Lewis was also excited — she’s going to Harford Community College to study nursing.
Kevin Wallace left Havre de Grace High School on Thursday night relieved.
“It’s been a long journey,” Wallace said after watching his son, Taylor Wallace, receive his diploma. “I’m very excited, emotional. There have been some nail-biting moments.”
Taylor Wallace was feeling good as he took pictures in front of the glass windows of the main high school building — with teachers photobombing from inside.