Daniel Michael Carducci, a Perryville High School student who died in January part of the way through his senior year, was honored during the Class of 2018’s graduation ceremony Friday evening.
Class president Dale Watson III said Carducci was not present physically, but “his spirit will live with us throughout our journeys in life.”
The 17-year-old Port Deposit resident died at home on Jan. 31, according to his online obituary on the Cecil Daily website.
“He will simply not he forgotten — he will always be remembered in our hearts, we love you Daniel,” Watson said to applause from the audience.
The class president gave the welcoming remarks during Perryville High’s 108th commencement, held on the school football field.
He lauded his classmates for their multiple accomplishments in athletics, academics and the arts, and he thanked the family members, teachers and school staff who helped make the graduates the people they are today as they enter the adult world.
Watson urged his classmates to not let fear deter them from accomplishing their goals.
“Life is about making mistakes and learning from it, and I encourage this class to take on the world and not fear failures or difficulties that would close off windows of opportunity,” he said.
Daniel Carducci’s name was called as the diplomas were being handed out, which brought cheers and applause from the stands. His name was among the 180 graduates listed in the commencement program.
“We did want to recognize him as part of the graduating class,” Principal Justin Zimmerman said after the ceremony.
He said Carducci “had so many friends and people that he was close with” at school.
“You just continue to honor him and not forget who he was,” said Zimmerman, who declined to discuss the circumstances of the student’s death without his family’s permission.
Graduate Hunter Zacerous, 17, of Perryville, said it was “gut wrenching” to hear Carducci’s name during the ceremony.
“I knew he should be here,” Zacerous said. “It’s hard to process the whole thing.”
He had been friends with Carducci, and both played junior-varsity baseball for the Panthers.
“He was a greet outgoing kid . . . one of the nicest kids in the school,” Zacerous said.
Zacerous also wrestled for Perryville. He will be on the wrestling team at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, where he will study criminal justice.
He said PHS “gave me a great foundation” for college.
“Perryville is like another home for me,” he said.
George Hipkins IV, 17, of Conowingo, plans to study music composition for film at Cecil College and continue those studies at the Johns Hopkins University Peabody Institute in Baltimore.
Hipkins said the sudden passing of Carducci showed him how serious life is, and that high school is not just “a bunch of kids.”
“If anything, we got more serious about helping each other,” he said of his classmates.
Andrea Lee described Carducci, whom she had known since middle school, as “friendly and likeable.”
“It was nice to see that he wasn’t forgotten,” said Lee, 18, of Port Deposit. “That was definitely good to see.”
Lee, who wants to be a music teacher, plans to study music education at West Chester University in Pennsylvania.
“The music program has been the foundation of my high school experience,” she said.
Her father, Jeff Lee, said “it’s sad because she’s growing up, but it’s good that she’s graduating and going on to college.”
“We’re just really proud of her and we’re anxious for her to make the next step in her life — she’s going places,” her mother, Cathy Lee, said.
Leslie Patterson Sr., of Charlestown, watched three of his children cross the stage Friday, Leslie Patterson Jr., Kalie Patterson and Kelsey Rea.
Leslie Jr. wants to join the Maryland State Police or the Air Force; Kalie is interested in cosmetology, and Kelsey will take part in programs offered by the Bayside Community Network to support individuals with special needs, Patterson said.
“I’m very proud of all three of my children,” he said.
The graduates heard from valedictorian Jason Woods, salutatorian Illario Ercole, their principal and William Malesh, a member of the Cecil County Board of Education.
Malesh said the graduates will see major changes in the future, such as vehicles without drivers, people walking on Mars and the eradication of nearly all diseases.
“Always remember that the most valuable thing on Earth is its people,” he said. “You are a member of a global society, care for each other; it will help America and it will help the planet move forward.”