CAMBRIDGE — Cambridge-South Dorchester High School class of 2016 celebrated the culmination of their high school journey with a graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 25.

161 graduates received their diplomas as they prepare to move into the next chapter of their lives, be it college, military service, technical school or straight on to the workforce.

This class of graduates earned a total of $3,120,500 in scholarships among them. In the past six years, C-SDHS graduates have earned $15,492,285 in scholarship awards, said Principal David Bromwell.

Nine graduates were honored for finishing in the top five percent of their class in academics: Paige Bleyer, Alexandra Colman, Abby Doty, Madison Forrest, James Geleta, Patrick Geleta, Meagan Owens, and Ashley Willey.

Graduate Emory Wongus was recognized, to spirited cheers from the crowd, for twelve straight years of perfect attendance. Bromwell pointed out that this achievement amounts to 2,149 straight school days.

The sentiment throughout the night was one that encouraged the graduates to work hard, believe in themselves, and take time to enjoy life in the present.

Salutatorian Meagan Owens began her address with an interesting fact: the Class of 2016 graduates are the last to be born into the Millenial generation.

“Millenials were born into a world heavily reliant on technology, and now, social media. Some may say that technology has increased the pace of life and constantly encouraged users to be somewhere other than the present,” said Owens.

She gave several personal accounts of times when she was too busy looking forward, whether it be toward high school, driving privileges, or upperclassmen status, and as she looks back, she wishes she had spent more time in the moment.

“Because of this instantaneous way of life, enjoyed by members of the Millenial generation, the past four years have flown by. While we experienced many good times in high school, I know we all wish we could go back and slow things down

“My challenge to the class of 2016 is this: we still have many, many years ahead of us to create memories doing what makes each of us happy. In the time after you graduate, no matter what path you choose, make the best of it and enjoy every possible moment,” she said.

In his valedictory address, Patrick Geleta talked about his personal triumph over incredible obstacles to encourage his classmates to work their hardest to reach their ultimate potential.

“We have the opportunity to prove that we can all meet our highest potential. No matter what we do, we will achieve and we will succeed as the elite class of 2016,” he said.

Geleta shared his story of barely surviving at birth due to having been born eleven weeks premature and the accompanying developmental delays. He said he was a special education student when he began his academic career, but through his determination and help from dedicated teachers, he overcame the hardship.

“I was not born to be the valedictorian,” said Geleta. “I started first grade at South Dorchester School. There, I was finally able to live up to my full potential. I was surrounded by this positive sphere of teachers and mentors who really set me on the path I’m leading today.”

Geleta challenged his classmates to remember never to doubt their abilities and capacity to succeed on whatever path they choose to follow.

Class President Ashley Pete introduced Ashley Simmons, 2011 C-SDHS graduate and 2015 Towson University graduate, as the commencement speaker.

Simmons is currently a student at the University of Baltimore School of Law, and will intern this summer for the Honorable Judge Barry G. Williams of Baltimore City Circuit Court. Williams is presiding over the trials surrounding the Freddie Gray case.

The message Simmons brought to the class of 2016 was a list of fourteen life lessons she wishes she had known before she graduated from C-SDHS, some practical and some more philosophical.

She echoed the messages of both salutatorian and valedictorian: cut down on screen time to enjoy the moment you are living in and hard work beats talent when talent does not work.

“Be the best version of you at all times, and make the most of every situation. When you get frustrated, and it seems like everything is against you, see the positive in every single situation. Life is not always going to be fair. You have the make the most of it,” Simmons said.

In light of making the best of time, she told graduates to go out of their comfort zone and let themselves be tested.

“No one in my family had graduated college, and it scared me, and made me wonder if that’s where I belonged,” she said. “You should strive to be challenged. Figure out who you are.”

Simmons also shared a story of personal hardship with her health as an example of how the graduates should choose to see hard times not as a disadvantage, but as an obstacle you strive to overcome.

Other lessons she wished for the graduates to know included being kind, allowing oneself to be vulnerable, being aware that everyone has a story, always giving one-hundred percent in everything that you do, and doing what is best for you.

“Every day, every single day, ask yourself if what you’re doing today will get you closer to where you want to be tomorrow,” said Simmons.

Principal Bromwell made sure to take time to thank the parents, faculty, support staff, and others who helped to make graduation possible for the class of 2016.

He closed the ceremony, saying, “State your goals and go out to achieve them. Be better than me, be better than faculty that taught you, be better than your parents.”

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