Wednesday night started with laughs at North Harford High School's Class of 2012 graduation, with remarks about the impending apocalypse predicted for the end of this year.
Class President Shelby Morris kicked off the evening, joking about there being no need to look to the future and that they saved the best North Harford class for last. On a serious note, Morris thanked the supporting community, teachers and parents, adding that students sometimes take being a hawk for granted.
Co-valedictorians Blain Anderson and Laurel Jones were the main speakers for the ceremony and delivered a joint speech to the waiting crowd of graduates and families in Aberdeen High School's gymnasium. Anderson continued the laughs by thanking his "teachers," Google, Wikipedia and Sparknotes.
He also urged his classmates to remember the past, embrace the changes that will come in the future and said their lives tomorrow are a result of the choices they make today. Jones praised North Harford for its small town charm, calling it the best school in the county and more than the "duck farmer" school it appears to be.
"Take pride in calling yourself a North Harford duck farmer," she said.
She will cherish her friends and memories made, Jones added. Several of her classmates had similar feelings before graduation, including Autumn Shifflett, who is headed to Harford Community College for the next two years. Shifflett, 17, said she will miss seeing her friends every day.
After spending two years at Harford for an arts degree, Shifflett plans on transferring to an art school.
"I have always loved art," she said, adding, "It's expressive. It's for me."
Her friend, Alaicia Gangi, 18, is following a very similar path, but after two years studying art, English and French at Harford, she plans on going to France for college and then staying there to teach English.
Continuing her career in France offers Gangi an opportunity to immerse herself in her love of art, English and France, she added.
"It's just great to be able to combine all three of my passions into one," she said.
Brianna Price, 17, plans on studying abroad as well, but is starting at Virginia Tech, studying animal and poultry sciences, as well as wildlife science. She wants to study in South Africa and Australia before eventually applying to veterinary school. Although she is excited for college and "glad" high school is over, Price said she will miss her friends and football games.
Staying local, Tyler Cleary, 18, plans to head into the family transportation business after graduation. He hopes to one day take over, he said, and wants to "keep the family business going."
Classmate Lance Cooper, 17, is staying in Maryland as well and plans to become a paid firefighter with Baltimore County or the company atBaltimore-Washington International Airport. Right now, he volunteers for Whiteford Volunteer Fire Company and wants to pursue that as a career.
"It's something I've always been interested in," he said.
Following fashion is something Morgan Palmer has always been into and it's more of a hobby than a career, she said Wednesday. The 18-year-old senior is going to Indiana University of Pennsylvania to major in fashion merchandising.
Fellow graduate Christopher Chmielewski, 18, is going into a career he has always been interested in as well and will be attending Salisbury University for communications. With that, he plans on going into the technical side of the field or video editing.
Chmielewski has been on the school's tech crew for three years, he added.
Another senior, Annabelle Rathbun, is staying in Maryland, too, starting at Harford Community College for its affordability. After that, she plans on transferring into University of Maryland's nursing program.
"I just like being able to help other people and knowing what I'm doing is making a difference," she said.
Such opportunities come with being in American, Board of Education member Rick Grambo said in his greeting at the start of the ceremony. Grambo urged students to be proud of who they are and where they come from, adding that the North Harford community embodies the principles at the heart of the country.
Sen. Barry Glassman attended the graduation as well, starting with his familiar line, banning the Aberdeen Eagles to the "cubbies" so the North Harford Hawks could dominate the gymnasium. Harford County Executive David Craig briefly spoke, too, thanking teachers, administrators and staff for their dedication and saying he is proud of the graduates.
Representing the Harford County Council, Council President Billy Boniface also addressed the students, wishing them a good summer and encouraging them to chase after success.