With a small class and a proud history, Joppatowne High School's 42nd group of graduates walked across the stage Tuesday and into the rest of their lives.
Wearing caps and gowns of the school's purple and white colors, members of the Class of 2015 filed into Harford Community College's APG Federal Credit Union Arena on a gray afternoon. Despite the spotty rain, the atmosphere inside was festive and the rows of bleachers were decorated with purple and white bows in honor of Joppatowne's Class of 2015.
"Hello, Mariners, are you ready for today?" State Del. Rick Impallaria greeted the class from the stage, informing them he was a Joppatowne alum from the Class of 1980.
"You are a very special group of people," Impallaria said, reminding them they are Mariners and many may choose to stay in Joppatowne and build their homes there.
Regardless, he said, "you will always remember the time you spent at Joppatowne."
"Mariners, go out and show the world you are the best," he said.
The 147 seniors included many who took part in the school's distinctive Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness program.
Two of them said their goals reflect the vision of the program.
Donald Hare III called it "a great opportunity" and said it definitely prepared him for life post-graduation.
Hare, who already volunteers as a firefighter at Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company, said he is planning to start at Harford Community College and hopes to continue pursuing either firefighting or emergency medical services.
Shuron was standing with Ashley Beavers, who wants to go into animal control.
"I am really excited to graduate and see what my future holds," she said. "I am excited to get out in the real world."
Another Joppatowne alum, Harford County Councilman Mike Perrone, gave the graduates several pieces of advice, including: "Make sure you understand the difference between market capitalism and crony capitalism."
He said the problems in their community might then make more sense.
Perrone also advised walking in the shoes of someone they disagreed with and urged graduates to never "disengage" from their society.
"All the problems we faced in school always had a right or wrong answer. In life, there is no right or wrong choice," he said, adding members of the class will be "morally and ethically" challenged as they grow older.