Sophia Ames, Edgewood High School's 2016 valedictorian, reflected on the Latin origin of the title – valedicere, or to say farewell – as she addressed her classmates during the school's 58th annual commencement Wednesday evening.
Ames, who had the highest grade point average in her class, said she has the duty to bid farewell to her alma mater and the Class of 2016.
"That's my job, and I am truly honored to be able to say goodbye to you," she said.
Ames also invoked a line from William Shakespeare, expressing her hope that "we choose to love all, trust a few and do wrong to none."
"But, we can do all that tomorrow," she said. "Today, let's just celebrate; thank you, and goodbye."
Ames spoke to a packed house in the Edgewood High gymnasium, as the 297-member Class of 2016 was celebrated. The boys wore red caps and gowns, and the girls wore white.
"I can tell you, this is quite an amazing class," Principal Larissa Santos told the audience.
Tim Blackman, the salutatorian, said his class' time at EHS "has been short, but we have learned many valuable life lessons."
Those lessons include finding a group of friends "who we would devote our lives to" and learning to "live with passion."
"Continue to dream, continue to live your life passionately and make your mark on the world, for after all, the world is our oyster," Blackman said.
Each senior class officer also took the stage and gave a brief speech.
Treasurer Alexis Perdomo said "we cannot forget to thank our peers" for their help in getting each other through high school.
Class Secretary Noah Maddock encouraged his classmates to think of the members of the community who have cared for them in multiple ways during their childhoods, such as providing safety and education.
"This milestone is a step along the way of eventually giving back," he said of high school graduation.
Tariq Kanu, the class vice president, extended thanks to family, friends and teachers for their support.
"We are truly grateful for the past 18 years of direction," he said.
Class President Josh Lacerna gave the final remarks.
"Edgewood High School Class of 2016, have a good life!" he exclaimed.
Thursday's commencement was a time to recognize not just the graduating seniors, but also this year's inductees into the Edgewood High School Hall of Fame.
This year's inductees include three alumni – U.S. Marshal Johnny L. Hughes, Dr. David B. Lewis and BangTam Dang-Miller – three former staffers and teachers -- Dolores R. Simmons, a physical education teacher and coach, Carolyn M. Kustanbauter, a business education teacher and coordinator of the school's Academy of Finance, and Debbie Lynn Basler, a physical education teacher, coach, athletic director and department chair, plus one community supporter, Mark M. Wolkow, a former member and president of the Harford County Board of Education.
"It is Edgewood's rich history and the dedication of the individuals that have come before us that have defined our legacy," Santos said.
The graduates heard words of inspiration from school board member Robert Frisch, state Sen. Robert Cassilly, Del. Glen Glass and County Councilman Mike Perrone.
Frisch, a 1973 graduate of EHS, reflected on his commencement, held 43 years ago on the school's football field, when he wondered what his future would be like.
"I can tell you that members of my class have changed lives and made a difference in all four corners of our great nation," said Frisch, who has served on the school board since 2010 and is a former teacher and a Baltimore City police officer.
Glass, whose daughter is a graduate of Edgewood, warned the graduates that "life is not fair."
"A fair is a place where a pig wears ribbons," he said.
He encouraged them to "never give up, and never let anybody write your story for you."
Santos, in her parting words to the Class of 2016, told them "mediocrity will never do."
She noted each graduate excels in his or her own way.
"You are not here to achieve mediocrity... you were prepared to break glass ceilings," she said.
Santos also led the graduates in a final cheer of "this is...Edgewood! I am...Edgewood! We are...Edgewood!"
"God, I love this class," Santos said.
Friends and relatives cheered as each graduate crossed the state and received his or her diploma.
The class then departed the gym and gathered by the ram statue in front of the school for the traditional tossing of their caps.
Red and white caps flew into the air as the graduates and their families cheered.
Deshaun Schoolcraft, 18, of Edgewood, met with his family afterward. He said he plans to study engineering at Harford Community College.
"It's amazing that I'm done, and I can finally do stuff with my life," he said.
David R. Anderson II, 18, of Edgewood, plans to get a commercial driver's license so he can drive trucks.
He said his final year of school has been difficult, "but it's an amazing time."
"It's the beginning of a good year," Anderson said of graduation.
Madelyn Miller, 17, of Fallston, has a certificate for completing the rigorous International Baccalaureate magnet program at EHS, in addition to her high school diploma.
The Global Studies/International Baccalaureate Diploma Program is open to students countywide.
"It's a big relief that it's done," Miller said of the IB program. "I'm really proud of the fact that I, and all of my friends, were able to get through it and get through it so well."
She plans to attend the Honors College at the University of Maryland, College Park.