By Morgan Pilz, Staff Writer
(June 8, 2018) Family, friends and loved ones showed roaring support for the 286 graduates of Stephen Decatur High School, Wednesday, May 30, at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center on 40th Street in Ocean City.
“This is a very special graduation class to me,” Principal Thomas Zimmer said. “When I was first named a principal eight years ago, it was at Berlin Intermediate School and these students on stage were in fifth grade.
“I’d like to think we matured together. It was great to get to know them then and it has been a wonderful experience to see them mature and be ready to cross the stage and do great things in this world,” he continued.
Special guests of the 64th Stephen Decatur graduation included Worcester County Public Schools Superintendent Louis Taylor, Board of Education President William Gordy, Chief Academic Officer and Vice Superintendent Dr. John Quinn, and several members of the board of education.
“Each one of you has something great inside of you, something that is uniquely yours and when you share it with the world, we will all take notice,” Taylor said.
The Worcester County Board of Education uses a three-tiered senior recognition program where each student receives a cumulative weighted GPA, which is calculated at the end of the third marking period in English, math, social studies, science, world languages and Advanced Placement courses. Class rank with valedictorian and salutatorian honors ended several years ago.
Students who earned a 5.05 GPA or higher received Summa Cum Laude honors. Those receiving a 4.9-5.04 GPA earned Magna Cum Laude accolades and students earning a 4.8-4.89 GPA were presented Cum Laude distinction. All honorees stood for recognition during the commencement ceremony.
The graduates received $7.7 million in scholarships from colleges and universities. They accepted $3.4 million.
Of the 286 graduates, 131 students (46 percent) will enroll at a four-year college or university in the fall. Eighty-four (29 percent) will enroll in a two-year college, two (1 percent) will study at a trade or technical school, 14 (5 percent) will enlist in the military, eight (3 percent) plan to work in a field related to their study, and 47 (16 percent) will work outside their field of study.
“Our class is not just about numbers,” Lilian Rakow, class president, said. “Talk to anyone inside our school and out in the community, and they will agree that the class of 2018 is one of the most kindhearted, friendly, inspired groups of young people they have ever seen. That being said, this is not where our legacy will end.”
The 2018 graduates celebrated a successful academic and athletic year, earning multiple awards and achievements for their skills in the classroom and on the field. Some other awards were presented for law, economics, engineering, writing and art.
“Through hard work, academic achievement, dedication and drive, they have left their mark on us,” Zimmer said. “Now it is their time for them to go out and make their mark on the world.”
Psychology teacher Courtney Bova was chosen by the students to be their graduation keynote speaker. Bova started at Stephen Decatur four years ago.
“All you sitting on this stage tonight have made my last four years of Decatur truly unforgettable,” Bova said. “I’ve gotten to see you grow and mature since your freshman year when we entered Decatur together on that day. We’ve had homerooms together, planned lib dubs, raised money for Relay for Life, tried cases in mock trials, and had so many lunchtime discussions where I think we solved just about every problem in the world.
“The fact that I get to be here tonight, to have had the opportunity to work with these amazing students sitting before you is truly humbling,” Bova added. “Your caring and compassion comes through in all that you do, and I hope that moving forward you continue to embrace all of the opportunities presented to you, to make this world a better place, just like you did while you were in Stephen Decatur High School.”
Each speaker offered words of wisdom for the graduates before they accepted their diplomas and turned their tassels.
“Be in the here and now,” Bova said. “Take in this moment and all of the moments to come. We spend so much of our lives waiting for what happens next, we forget to see all the greatness around us. Take in a moment. Take in each day, even the crappy ones, because they go by way too fast.”
“While it is true you will be leaving the security of your parents’ homes and the security of the school that has nurtured you and guided you, and often protected you over the last four years, a new exciting phase is about to begin,” Zimmer said. “The world is wide and it is filled with opportunity. Seize those opportunities and strive to achieve whatever goals you have set.”
“As Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel said: ‘This is the world that you are born into and you are responsible for it,’” Taylor said. “That responsibility must seem like a heavy burden, but I am encouraged. I insist that each of you, after leaving the halls of Stephen Decatur High, [that] you use the knowledge gained here. The future depends not on the stars or fate, but on the decisions that each of you will make.”