Perhaps the fire alarm was a sign of good luck for the graduating class of Middletown High School.
But 45 minutes before the 273 students walked down the aisle in their black robes, they lined up outside — not inside — the gymnasium where students gather before graduation.
This is one for the books, a teacher said as he rushed down the hallways 30 minutes later.
Despite the unexpected, albeit brief, evacuation, graduation started promptly at 2 p.m. with the seniors marching down the aisle, two by two. Leading the graduates was Kasenia Olney.
“I’m very nervous, and of course, since the fire alarm went off, it’s been an interesting time,” Olney said.
The fire alarm may have been related to the air conditioning, which was blasting before the ceremony. The crowd of proud parents, relatives and friends used their programs to fan themselves in the hot Knott Arena. Among the crowd were Olney’s parents, siblings and grandfather.
Olney plans to attend Frederick Community College to pursue a certificate in American Sign Language studies. She’s studied the language for five years and loves it, she said. She plans to get a job working with people who are deaf.
Changing the world through small or large actions and the teachers who helped them accomplish goals was the theme of Bridget O’Toole’s speech to her fellow classmates — changes such as holding a student walkout for school safety after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida or getting permission to paint parking spaces.
“We have used our voices to make change,” O’Toole said. “Sure, it might have seemed small, but anything truly great must start somewhere.”
Allie Watt, 17, plans to make change by studying to become a behavioral analyst with the FBI. Daniel Racz, 18, wants to study nuclear engineering.
Racz is headed to the University of Tennessee-Knoxville in the fall.
“I believe the teachers have set me up for success as I move on to college,” Racz said.
Graduation, he said, means taking the next step in his future. If he could give his younger, freshman self one piece of advice, it would be to enjoy high school while he can.
“High school goes by really fast,” Racz said. “Make the most of each year, each semester.”
For Watt, high school went by so quickly that she is still processing that her four years at Middletown High are finished.
“I don’t really know how I feel yet,” she said. “It hasn’t hit me that it’s actually happening.”
Watt will be back in the sports complex at Mount St. Mary’s in the fall, this time as a student and an athletee. She will be a pole vaulter on the track team, she said, and plans to spend the summer training.
Like Racz, she said high school goes by faster than it seems.
“[Graduation] just means I made it,” Watt said. “School’s always been kind of a struggle, so just making it here is a great feeling.”
This time, when the black-robed teenagers left the arena, it was to the “Marche Triomphale.” Now, they left as graduates.