By Greg Wehner
(June 9, 2022) The 301 members of Stephen Decatur High School’s class of 2022 ended their final year last week with a graduation on the football field filled with families, friends and fireworks.
Just before walking through the field’s ticket booth, through the rows and rows of family and friends, and to another section of chairs designated for them in front of the stage, a video showing each of the graduates as youngsters was shown on the jumbotron screens, with faculty members giving words of encouragement to their former pupils.
But the path to graduation was not easy for many of the students, as the covid-19 pandemic forced them all to learn new ways to learn and be away from their friends.
Principal Thomas Sites said the students were only able to experience some of the traditions the high school provides them as undergraduates before things changed.
“In the middle of their high school experience…we shut down,” he said. “Still, they learned not only to navigate online learning but also learned compassion, empathy, and the importance of gratitude. They learned to forge new ways to serve, and perhaps more importantly, they learned how to adapt to change.”
That perseverance through change was a big part of the graduation ceremony.
Senior Class President Lilly Devereaux addressed her fellow students at the beginning of the procession, providing all of them with words of encouragement as they move to their next phase in life.
“Be proud today when you walk across this stage,” she said. “We worked so hard to get to this point in our lives and no one can take that away from us.”
Of the 301 students in the class, many have already made plans for what that next phase entails.
Just under half of the students, or 146, plan to attend four-year colleges. Of the 146 students, 49 plan to attend Salisbury University, and the rest plan to go to colleges across the country in places like James Madison, Loyola, Pace, Purdue, and the University of California Los Angeles.
Seventy-three students plan to attend two-year colleges, of which 69 plan to attend Wor-Wic Community College.
Eleven students will attend technical or trade schools and six enlisted in the military.
Four students will begin working in a related field of study and 60 will enter the workforce.
Of the just over $7 million in scholarships offered to members of the class, about $5 million was accepted.
While the Class of 2022 is not the first to graduate after going through a pandemic, it certainly will not be the last.
Superintendent Lou Taylor, for whom the football field is named, said the goal of the district is to have students become a generation of citizens who are ready to go out and shape the world for tomorrow.
“I believe we have accomplished what we have set out to do,” he said to everyone at the graduation.
He then directed his comments to the class, saying they will be a generation that seeks to enrich the community and the world beyond them.
After receiving their diplomas and being sent out into the world, fireworks shot up into the sky to celebrate the landmark occasion in the students’ lives.
“Members of the class of 2022, the future is always out there waiting for us,” Sites said. “Now go out there and make it shine bright.”