Despite world turmoil and recent violence in Los Angeles, all seemed right in the world for one brief moment: Tara Massey won a full scholarship to become a history teacher, Latrisa Harper aimed to start a Christian dance company, and Patrick Sharp snagged a U.S. Air Force Academy appointment.
They were among the nearly 100 high school seniors who won accolades in the county's Black Student Achievement Program. At a ceremony Monday night, they wore their Sunday best and smiled sheepishly at the applause. Parents beamed with pride and snapped photos as their children accepted a medal, received a pen-and-pencil set and announced their names and future plans.
"All right!" yelled a parent after Hammond senior Sheila Myers announced she wanted to start her own enterprise.
"That's the spirit!" yelled another after Hammond senior Stephanie Williams said she planned to own an international business.
Centennial senior Kristen Gill won special recognition as the only black student to achieve a 4.0 grade-point average. A scholarship for an elementary school student to attend a Helping Hands summer enrichment program was placed in her name.
Gill said listing priorities and keeping a regimen helped her hold a perfect record. "Definitely sit in front of class," she said. "Ask questions until you get the answer you want. Don't hesitate to ask for help. Study -- don't save everything for the last minute."
The more than 200 parents, siblings and grandparents who attended seemed in awe of the achievements, which ranged from Wilde Lake senior Denham Fassett's $64,000 scholarship to the Rhode Island School of Design to Glenelg senior Jonathan Jackson's appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.
"I feel honored to be among the top black students," said Oakland Mills High School senior Byron Hord. "I get acknowledgment from white teachers, but it feels extra nice to get acknowledgment from my own community. It gives me a feeling of esteem."
Fifth-grader Nailah Jackson was impressed with the graduating seniors. The 10-year-old, who already gets "A's" and "B's" at Swansfield Elementary School, said she'll be aspiring to step into their shoes. "I hope to keep getting good grades and get into a good college," she said.
Students who received awards included:
* Atholton: Rabinai Carson, Tony Dedmond, Bryan Dunston, Monique Glover, Tara Massey, Clement Richardson, Emminette Sawyer, James Waddy and Stephanie Wallis.
* Centennial: Alison Baker, Sonja Byrd, Kristen Gill, Erika Hughes, Sonya Lawyer, Chad Rogers, Marnie Sigler, William Woodford and Robyn Zellars.
* Glenelg: Charlene Dorsey, Eric Grant and Jonathan Jackson.
* Hammond: Tristan Alexander, James Dinkins, Simeon Greene, Nicole Harry, Nana Hayford, Sheila Myers, Sonia Peters, Krystal Ross, Stephanie Williams and Candace Wongsam.
* Howard High: Joseph Beard, Kali Butler, Harold Dottin, Cynthia Hawkins, Carline Honore, Taleya House, Schonda Jessie, Mark McFadden, Aknesha Miller, James Morrow, Diedre Presley and Tonya Outen.
* Mount Hebron: Malcolm Carter, Kia Davis, Tamara Moore, Benjamin Morgan, Kali Murray, Joel Warner and Ariam Workneh.
* Oakland Mills: Marc Alston, Katresa Banks, Bishara Bates, Leonard Boyd, Sydney Cousin, George Craig, Sharon Davis, John Guyton, Kia Harper, Latrisa Harper, Byron Hord, Hakim Jones, Aaron McGruder, Kimberly Rollins, Kelly Sykes, Jamie Turner, Frank Turner, Angela Tyree, Gregg Washington and Bonya Webb.
* Wilde Lake: Steven Alleyne, Ifeyinwa Arah, Darryl Bell, James Bonner, William Bowman, George Bradford, Lisa Brooks, Asa Cokley, Miguel Collins, Ira Crawley, Darian Crouse, Zeyn Desai, Denham Fassett, Stacia Gales, Brent Guyton, Damon Hamlin, Murad Ibrahim, Changa Ingram, Nishika Jones, Jill Kelly, Olga Lloyde, Rashid Mayes, Alabi Molake, Matthew Nesbitt, Aaron Parrish, Robyn Richardson, Patrick Sharp, Kolby Wragg and Renita Young.