Members of the Harford County Board of Education offered hearty congratulations to the high school Class of 2015 during their meeting Monday evening, but they also gave sober words of warning to the recent graduates about celebrating responsibly.
Many high school graduates who received their diplomas last week are spending a week in Ocean City for Senior Week, and board members urged them to make good decisions when celebrating.
"It only takes a moment to change a life forever," board member Robert Frisch said.
Frisch talked about investigating auto accidents while with the Baltimore Police Department and having to announce the deaths of young people "who didn't make good choices."
"Be careful out there," he advised any graduates who might see the meeting when it is rebroadcast on television and online. "Don't make a decision that will have tragic consequences for you and for your family."
His colleague Cassandra Beverley also urged graduates to make good decisions when celebrating.
"You made a lot of really good decisions in order to make it, to be able to graduate," Beverley said. "I'm going to encourage all of you to continue to make good decisions."
Beverley said she and her colleagues on the board want the graduates to "have a good time as you venture out with your friends," but they must make smart choices "so that this will not be the last occasion that you have to celebrate with family and friends."
"There are many, many things you will have an opportunity to celebrate in the future if you make good decisions," she said.
Each school board member attended several graduations as platform guests and graduation speakers; they also handed out diplomas.
"It was a great honor to speak and be a platform guest," board member Arthur Kaff said.
The duty of handing out diplomas was special this year for several board members, including Beverley, Alysson Krchnavy and Joseph Hau, because they handed them to their children as they crossed the stage.
Beverley also mentioned she handed a diploma to Hannah Jones, the student representative to the board, during Patterson Mill High School's graduation ceremony.
This year "is truly my favorite class, for obvious reasons," Krchnavy said.
She also thanked the school system employees who have worked with students from kindergarten through graduation, as well as Harford Community College for hosting the majority of last week's commencements at the APG Federal Credit Union Arena.
"The APG[FCU] Arena is just a great venue," Krchnavy said.
Board member James Thornton recognized the principals, assistant principals, guidance counselors and other school staff who "work really hard to pull off these ceremonies."
"They're almost precision-like in the way in which we've gotten to the point of execution," he continued.
The past two weeks, which have included senior awards ceremonies followed by commencements, "have been fantastic," he said.
"Last week was one of the more rewarding weeks to be on the Board of Education," board member Tom Fitzpatrick said.
Superintendent Barbara Canavan, who also took part in the graduations, offered advice from her father.
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"Don't wait for your ship to come in," she said. "Row out and meet it. Congratulations!"