Howard High seniors assemble memories Graduates urged to savor the details

June 06, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

When Betsy Allen walked across the stage at Howard High School Friday night, even the planks beneath her feet were reminders of the life she was leaving behind.

"I feel comfortable on that stage. It's my home," said the 18-year-old resident of Columbia's Thunder Hill neighborhood.

It was on that auditorium stage that she played Frenchie in the musical "Grease" this year, sang with the Madrigal singers and performed in the school's talent show.

But she and 278 other members of Howard's Class of 1993 traded that stage for a much larger and less familiar one Friday night as they accepted their high school diplomas.

Ms. Allen will be going to Wake Forest University in North Carolina this fall to study liberal arts and find a career path that suits her.

Others, like Jamie Kendrick, who said he was "scared" and "excited" to be entering the adult world, will stay closer to home.

Mr. Kendrick said he plans to study political science at the University of Maryland's College Park campus and, despite his fear, run for a seat on the Howard County school board next year. He already has served as a student member on both the county and state school boards.

But there is an entire summer to revel in the freedom of adulthood before coping with its responsibilities. Friday night was for remembering what these adults were leaving behind.

It was for remembering the homecoming games, won two years in a row.

"The year before we just got robbed," said Susan Willmott of Columbia's Phelps Luck neighborhood.

And the year before that, and the year before that . . .

For Mike Williams, 17, of Laurel, it was a time to remember the special events, like the school marching and symphonic band's trips, to London and Disney World in Florida.

It was also a time to remember the little things that made high school a little easier, said class president David Adams in his address to the Class of '93.

"Don't just look at your best friends," he said. "Look at the boy who sat in front of you in math and helped you all year. Look at the girl who sat next to you in biology and just always seemed to be smiling. Remember them and the little impacts they made on your life here at Howard."

After reaching the "height of excitement" ushering his charges through commencement, Principal Eugene Streagle said his emotions did an about-face as he sat on the stage and pondered the event.

"Wow, they're gone," he said. "A lot of these kids, you just won't see them again. When you lose 300 kids, it's a major adjustment."

In the case of this class, the adjustment might be even bigger.

"This group is the highest (grade-point average) that we've had in my nine years," said Mr. Streagle, who was named 1993 Principal of the Year by the Maryland Association of Secondary School Principals.

"Heretofore, Howard's reputation was so-so," he added. But as the average grade for the graduating class rose from a low "C" to nearly a "B", the school's reputation for academics grew also. Mr. Streagle attributed much of the improvement to the expectations of parents.

The school's working-class image has changed as well, he said.

"Our shirt still has a nice, blue color, but it's got a white collar, and a nice print tie," Mr. Streagle said, adding that the mix, with about a quarter of the students in the vocational-technical program, is what makes his school unique.

Mr. Adams the class president told his classmates, this was likely to be the last time they will sit together.

"After we walk out those doors, we may never see each other again. . . . Hold on to the memories and never let go. I love you all and I will never forget you."

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