A sea of 330 graduates in red and black gowns congregated Wednesday evening in the gymnasium at Mount St. Mary’s University.
They talked among their friends, their fellow students. Two friends did a special handshake; girls who were wearing heels took them off to rest their feet. Everyone mingled in the minutes before graduation started.
It was the last time they would all be together.
Lily Weaver, from New Market, sat in a chair off to the side of the gymnasium in her red cap and gown before walking into the auditorium with her classmates to be cheered on by family, friends and faculty.
She has Ewing’s sarcoma, but that didn’t dull her graduation glow.
Weaver was first diagnosed in 2011, then again in 2017. On May 9, she was diagnosed for a third time.
She had a biopsy on Tuesday and will soon have a plan for treatment.
“Each year that I’ve had cancer I’ve been home-schooled,” she said. “This year, since I just got diagnosed, and I only had 11 more days of school left I tried to push through all those days.”
As a high school student battling cancer, she has found balancing everything a challenge. But she’s been encouraged by those around her.
“Everyone around me has been super nice and has been trying to get my mind distracted off of it,” she said.
“And I always know that there’s someone who has it worse than me,” she added. “So I never look at myself as I have it worse than anyone else.”
Weaver was wearing a blue sash for the National Honor Society, two pins — one for journalism and one for the National Honor Society — and multiple cords for National English Honor Society and high honors.
In the fall, she is set to attend Frederick Community College with plans to transfer to Towson University.
She plans to become a second-grade teacher like her mom.
Sean Butehorn, of Mount Airy, missed more than half of his high school career because of gymnastics.
But even after missing so many days and doing homework on the road, he’s graduating in the top 20 of his class.
He was wearing his gymnastics medals — a bronze medal from a world gymnastics competition in China in 2016, the other from Antwerp, Belgium.
To keep up with his studies, he completed homework while on trips with support from his teachers.
He was also wearing cords for the National Art Honor Society, the Spanish Honor Society and high honors.
After high school he’s taking a gap year to work before applying to college.
“I’m really happy that I’m done,” he said. “I made it.”
Student speaker Emily Wolfe spoke at the commencement about senior year being the year of lasts.
“This year was our last dance, the last Friday night lights, last band trip,” she said. “This will be the last time we will all be sitting in a school gym together.”
But she said the last cliche holds true.
“Graduation is not the end,” she said. “It’s merely the beginning.”