As Caitlyn Naff walked into the Knott Arena at Mount St. Mary’s, she felt relieved.
She marched toward the stage, putting her four years at Catoctin High School behind her.
“Graduating means starting over, a new section of my life, becoming a grown-up now, now that I’m an adult and I feel more mature to move on,” Naff said.
Every high school in Frederick County adds its own flair to the ceremony, even if a few of the speeches are the same. The Catoctin High School graduates, dressed in navy blue robes, some with medals or cords, walked two by two down the aisle as their parents, family and friends stood, at the request of Principal Bernard Quesada.
The Thurmont Honor Guard presented colors before graduate Madeline Godlove sang the national anthem. Instead of one student speaker, Mark Rogers and Alexander Wivell took turns delivering messages of encouragement to their classmates, including how to relate to Wile E. Coyote.
For Wyatt Black, graduation meant an unthinkable accomplishment. When he was 15, Black was in the hospital, unconscious, fighting bacterial meningitis.
But there he was in his robes, graduating on time with his classmates, Quesada said in his comments.
“Now something, he told me he was terrified of his mother and what would happen to him if he didn’t get the grades he needed to graduate,” Quesada said. “I told him I, too, was terrified of his mother and what would happen to me if he didn’t graduate on time. And this created what we call in education an atmosphere conducive to learning.”
And once the songs were sung and speeches made, Naff, the class secretary, took the stage to present the Cougar Paw Award to Ms. Katherine Mills, the teacher the graduating class selected.
Naff plans to attend the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, where she will play volleyball and study criminal justice with a minor in forensics. Her goal is to work in crime scene investigations.
“That’s always been a dream for me since I was little to do something like that and help out,” Naff said.
Looking back, her favorite memories of high school were playing volleyball and being with her teammates and friends, she said.
Teammate Hayden Garrett is to attend Arizona State University, where she will study sports journalism.
Garrett said she was nervous to graduate from high school but excited about her future. High school was a “steppingstone for the future.”
“It’s helped me mature a lot and understand that not everything is always going to go your way, but if you persevere through all the tough times, you will meet all your goals,” Garrett said.
Four years at Catoctin High School, 12 years of primary and secondary education, were over. All that was left was to walk across the stage to accept the diploma.
As Garrett walked across the stage, she felt relief tinged with sadness that her time in high school was over.