By Morgan Pilz, Staff Writer
(June 7, 2019) Family, friends and loved ones showed roaring support for the 360 graduates of Stephen Decatur High School, Wednesday, May 29, at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center on 40th Street in Ocean City.
This year’s graduating class was the largest the school has ever had.
During the ceremony, there was a surprise video appearance by former Stephen Decatur High School Principal Thomas Zimmer, who transferred to Worcester Technical High School at the beginning of the year. He congratulating his former students through the big screen.
This was also a special graduation for Stephen Decatur High School Principal Thomas Sites, who is wrapping up his first year as head of the school.
“When I was first named a principal seven years ago, it was at Berlin Intermediate School and these students on stage were in sixth grade,” Sites said. “It was great to get to know them them and it’s been a wonderful experience to see them mature and be ready to cross the stage and do great things in the world.
“They’re your sons and daughters … but they are the sons and daughters of the community as well,” he continued. “They have been extremely generous with their time and their talents. They have made a difference in our school and in our community … I know the pride you must feel and I’ve felt it too both as a parent, and now as principal of Stephen Decatur High School. To the class of 2019, this evening is yours.”
Special guests of the 65th 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.
History teacher and class of 1977 graduate, Laurie Chetelat, gave the address.
“I am very proud to be a part of tonight’s celebration of this incredible achievement,” Taylor said. “I want to commend you, our class of 2019, for you reaching this milestone this evening. As each of you continue into your next chapter of life, whether it be at college, the armed forces, or embarking on a new career, you will carry the memory of this night with you as a reminder of what each of you can achieve.”
Taylor also congratulated the graduation class for being part of a milestone as Worcester County Public Schools celebrates 150 years.
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 2019 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.
The class of 2019 received $11,403,934 in scholarships and grants for four-year and two-year colleges and universities. They accepted $4,785,804.
Of the 360 graduates, 175 students (49 percent) will enroll at a four-year college or university in the fall. Eighty-one (23 percent) plan to attend a two-year college, nine (3 percent) will study at a trade or technical school, 19 (5 percent) will enlist in the military, 16 (4 percent) plan to work in a field related to their study, and 60 (16 percent) will work outside their field of study.
“You can’t change the direction of the wind but you can adjust the sails to always reach your destiny,” Class President Allison Jones said. “As we go forward, we must acknowledge that the wind would blow us and take our lives in many different directions. But keep in mind, we get to choose the perspective that we take. We have all been born with a purpose. We choose our perspective and we must persevere to find that final destination.”
Jones, who will be furthering her education at Towson University in the fall, shared a story about perseverance with a famous example, the struggles and ultimate success of Walt Disney.
“Class of 2019, I challenge you to find your purpose and choose your perspective and to persevere,” she continued. “Always remember you can’t change the direction of the wind, but you can adjust your sails to always reach your destination.”