High school graduates of 1999 celebrate -- in their own ways


June 07, 1999|By Sally Voris | Sally Voris,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THE THREE Ellicott City high schools -- Centennial, Mount Hebron and Howard -- held graduation ceremonies last week.

The familiar rituals yielded extraordinary moments.

Mary Day, principal at Howard High School for the past four years, officiated at the graduation of the Class of '99 on the University of Maryland, Baltimore County campus Friday morning.

In her speech, Day noted that this is the first class she has known for all four years of high school. She encouraged the students to "grasp the mantles of opportunities that will be presented to you in the new millennium and soar like eagles."

At the end of her speech, Day was pleased to present the Class of '99 to Sandra Erickson, assistant superintendent of the Howard County Public Schools.

"I hereby certify that the members of the Class of 1999 of Howard High School have successfully completed the requirements for the Maryland High School Diploma Certificate and stand ready to be graduated," she said.

The class, Day says, has excelled academically and athletically. Many have been involved in the community. She said she embraced many of them as they crossed the stage.

Day paints a picture of the school as a traditional community. Many of the students have parents or even grandparents who are Howard alumni.

"People are recording histories for their families," Day said of the graduation ceremony, adding that the event is meant to be serious.

She would have been mortified, she said, at Centennial High School's graduation, held Tuesday evening at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia.

Senior Brendan Phillips walked across the stage barefoot, with his hair in "big, thick dreadlocks," he said. At the urging of friends, he did a back flip on stage before receiving his diploma from school board member Stephen Bounds and shaking hands with Principal Lynda Mitic.

The audience applauded and cheered.

Brendan said he heard the principal say that this was their day. He couldn't imagine why anyone would be offended.

He's been eager to graduate since his sophomore year, he said. He wrestled and played lacrosse at the school, and goes backpacking and mountain biking, and plays African drums with his friends.

He added that he "doesn't conform too much to convention" and has gone barefoot or worn sandals for four years.

He plans to attend the University of Vermont next year.

Brendan's parents, Nina and Jerry Phillips, his sister Lauren and three of his four grandparents attended the graduation.

Mitic, who has been principal at Centennial for three years, said she was surprised by several of the students as they crossed the stage. One graduate did a split; another took a photograph of the audience.

Mitic appreciates her students' high spirits. She says she tried to take a "middle of the road" approach to graduation. She insisted every parent be able to hear his or her child's name be read and that every student should have a moment in the spotlight.

Bounds, who has served as a school board member at graduation ceremonies for five years, said that when he began, he "tried to impart some words of wisdom" to the graduating seniors.

He has learned better, he says. Now he keeps his remarks brief and tries to "have fun with the students."

It's a great celebration, Bounds said, and a significant event in students' lives.

Dave Kusterer, 18, was one of those who walked across the stage. "Getting the diploma was the best part," he said -- along with partying with close friends.

The school arranged a "Chem-Free" party on a boat in Baltimore, added his mother, Janet. She said the students had celebrated at the graduation by throwing Silly String and confetti.

After the cruise, Dave watched the sun rise with his friends. They went out for breakfast, came home and crashed, he said.

He will attend New York University in the fall.


Congratulations, Head Start!

The Head Start parent committee -- Adele Linsalata, Tammy Collins, Karen Elder, Esther Drake and April Little -- organized a party for 108 children Tuesday at the Head Start Center in the Rockland Art Center building.

Local businesses donated food for the party.

The celebration was a smooth ending to a turbulent year. The program had to be reorganized after the boilers broke mid-winter in the old Elkridge Elementary School building that Head Start had been using as a home.

Linsalata said that everybody learned to work together for the good of the children during the difficult time.

Blue Ribbon School

Trinity School in Ellicott City was selected recently as one of 266 Blue Ribbon Schools in the nation by the U.S. Department of Education.

The school submitted an extensive application and received a three-day visit by a representative from the department.

Helping Kosovars

Staff, students and parents at Deep Run Elementary School recently collected $780 to send to the American Red Cross for the children of Kosovo.

Ellicott City honors

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