Walkersville High School Principal Tracey Kibler was all smiles as she made her way down a line of Class of 2019 graduates in Mount St. Mary’s University’s stadium Thursday afternoon, greeting students by name and stopping frequently to take selfies.

“What’s been so amazing about this class is they are such a diverse and unique group of people and it’s been such a wonderful experience learning about them and hearing their stories,” Kibler said. “I’ve really been able to get to know them very well.”

One of the students who took a photo with Kibler, 17-year-old Dylan Grow, had equally kind words for the staff and teachers at Walkersville, saying the guidance and personal attention he received from his teachers helped him grow as a person and reach this point. Grow, who plans to pursue a career as an agricultural mechanic at Gladhill Tractor in Frederick, was particularly grateful to Greg Stull, a career and technology teacher at the school.

LaDasha Moore agreed, explaining that the staff and teachers at Walkersville helped her overcome some of the challenges she faced both at school and in her personal life that, at times, made her doubt whether she would graduate.

“So this is kind of scary, overwhelming, and my anxiety is kicking in a little bit, but I am excited because I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get here,” the 18-year-old said. “But, here I am! I made it.”

Moments before the students left the gym to enter the crowded arena across the hall, Kibler had one last surprise. Standing on a balcony overlooking the gym, Kibler dumped several bags full of balloons onto the graduates lined up below.

“The senior prank was [the seniors] filled Tracey’s office with hundreds of balloons and Saran wrapped her furniture, like her computer monitor and everything,” said Cynthia Zimmerman, an assistant principal, who found her own office’s furniture upside down on prank day. “It was the best senior prank I’ve ever seen. ... They did a great job!”

For her final goodbye to the outgoing class, Kibler kept several bags of the balloons and wrote inspiring or motivational messages on them to return them to the seniors, who playfully bounced them down the line, laughing and chanting school and class slogans.

Despite their high spirits, many students also took time to reflect seriously on their experience in high school. When asked what advice he would share with his fellow graduates, 18-year-old John Berkey, who wants to study computer science locally, offered sound advice.

“Don’t let your bad habits continue,” the Keymar resident said. “Or they will drag you down in the future.”

Dayah Scott, the class speaker, focused most of her speech on a similar theme, warning her fellow students that, while they held great promise, the effects of stress, hateful thinking, and other negative feelings and influences could easily ruin that future.

“You’ve got to envision the person you want to be and start showing up as that person,” Scott said. “... If there is a dream that keeps you awake at night, that pours forth from your soul ... jump for it.”

Follow Jeremy Arias on Twitter: @Jarias_Prime.

Jeremy Arias is the Frederick city and government reporter for The Frederick News-Post.

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