By Linwood Outlaw III -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County High School Principal Ernestine Jordan refers to the class of 2009 as "the calm after the storm."
The students are part of the last class to enter the former high school on Luray Avenue. Last year, they made the transition to their new building on Westminster Drive. Through it all, Jordan said, the students maintained an upbeat attitude.
"When I asked faculty and staff to characterize this senior class, the words used to describe you were friendly, caring, mature and honest," Jordan told the graduating class at the high school's commencement Friday evening.
The real world "is a series of victories and disappointments that happen in no predictable order," Jordan told the graduates. "Together and individually, you have already proven you can handle both. And, yes, some of you had a more difficult time than others making it to graduation day. What is important is [that] you're here. You made it," Jordan said.
Family and friends filled the bleachers of the high school gym on Friday to see 190 students receive their diplomas. Senior class President Ashley Day struggled to hold back tears as she addressed her peers for the last time.
"It is hard to believe that approximately 12 years ago, give or take a few days, we were graduating from kindergarten. I guess half of you are asking yourselves, 'where has the time gone?'" Day said.
Students Ingrid Ibarra and Stephanie Keller recited the senior class poem, aptly titled "Lingering Memories."
"We started high school small and shy, with experience low and confidence high," the girls said. "Let's stand together, let our ambitions fly. Now it's time for us to say good-bye."
About 46 of the graduates will be attending four-year colleges, and 94 of them plan to enroll at two-year schools, Director of Guidance Mary Kay Moose said. At least 40 students plan on entering the work force, she added. Three of the graduates -- Jesse Dove, Christopher Williams and Trung Eric Nguyen -- will be entering the armed services. In all, the class of 2009 earned more than $1.2 million in scholarships and other awards.
Andrew Joseph Schurtz, who was named valedictorian of the graduating class, told his peers that graduation is "a time to celebrate all that we have accomplished, while at the same time looking forward to and anticipating what life is about to throw our way."
"This is the time that I'm supposed to give you advice on how to succeed in life and get through this challenge, which I think is a little odd since I'm on the same boat as everyone else. Besides that point, me giving you advice is kind of silly and pointless anyway," said Schurtz, who plans to attend Virginia Tech and major in chemistry. "Not only because you'll have forgotten what I've said today by the time the weekend has finished, but also because you already know how to succeed and get things done."
So, Schurtz asked, exactly what are the keys to being successful in life?
"Just take that stuff you already know and have figured out and apply it to whatever you do," he told his fellow graduates. "Keep doing what you've been doing your whole life every time you've been faced with something new and difficult."
Salutatorian Sarah Schmidt said for many of the graduates, Friday's ceremony was "an event that seemed as if it would not arrive quickly enough, yet when it finally did arrive, we were stunned at how quickly it had crept up behind us.
"This new chapter that each of us is beginning is ours to write. The path we take is ours to travel and ours alone," said Schmidt, who will attend the University of Virginia and major in English education.
Barring inclement weather, students at Skyline High School will graduate today at 9 a.m. on the football field.