In recent weeks, we have had the pleasure of covering multiple graduation ceremonies throughout the region, high schools and colleges, public and private. We have seen students in their robes and mortar boards collect diploma and degrees, all smiles and handshakes and hugs for their accomplishments.

Just last weekend, 133 Kent County High School seniors received their diplomas in Trojan Arena. On the eve of Memorial Day weekend, Chestertown Christian Academy celebrated its 40th commencement ceremony recognizing this year’s six graduates. Washington College conferred 322 undergraduate degrees on May 19. Chesapeake College honored 319 graduates May 22.

This time of year always fills us with a sense of pride, pride in our schools, in our community and in the next generation who have completed an important chapter in their lives. We walk away feeling optimistic for the future, our thoughts filled with that same sense of hope and excitement we felt when we walked across the dais to receive our own diplomas and degrees far too many decades ago.

Kyle Hackett, a visual artist and lecturer at American University, was year’s KCHS graduation speaker. As he told the seniors seated in Trojan Arena last Saturday, Kent County “has fostered world-class talent.” And he would know, a member of the KCHS Class of 2007, he grew up in Still Pond.

Our schools are special, just as our community is special. Both are small. Both are tight knit. That close sense of community is in fact a valuable opportunity, which was not lost on this year’s KCHS valedictorian Paulina Panas, who heads out to UCLA in the fall.

“What I learned is that instead of keeping us from new experiences like I used to think, being in a small school expands our view in a way. Since there are so few of us, it gives us opportunities,” Panas said in her speech. “With what we learned at KCHS, academically, socially, politically or otherwise, I know that every single person in this class will be able to handle anything life throws at us.”

As is tradition, KCHS Principal Nick Keckley listed the many achievements of the Class of 2019. They are many and deserving of recognition by the entire community. Of this year’s slate of KCHS graduates, 75% are college- or technical school-bound, 20% are heading right into the workforce and 5% will serve their country in the military.

At Chesapeake College’s commencement, the count of associate degrees topped 260, with students going into fields including nursing, law enforcement, music, business and the humanities. And these students will be highly sought, said Chesapeake College commencement speaker Kelly M. Schultz, Maryland’s secretary of commerce.

“In Maryland, as in everywhere across the country, educated and highly qualified employees are in demand,” Schultz said. “Supply is low and competition for you is fierce. Which makes this very good news for all of you sitting here today.”

While we are hopeful for the job prospects of this year’s graduates, we recognize the world they are entering is greatly divided. We agree with Washington College commencement speaker Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Leo Strine Jr.’s statement that “what we share as fellow human beings far exceeds our differences.”

“The differences we have in styles, beliefs and strengths do not detract from our fellow humanity. They are essential to human progress and the joy we bring to each other,” Strine told this year’s slate of Washington College graduates.

It is our hope that our graduates here, having come from a place, as Panas pointed out, that forces interaction and pushes back against those differences that would so easily separate us in a larger community, are well prepared to move past the divisiveness of today and make a positive change on society.

Every year, we see the excitement in the eyes of these future leaders. That excitement is contagious. We feel it and we hope you do to.

Congratulations to all of the classes on 2019. We wish you the best of luck.

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