High school graduation ceremonies are always a mixture of jubilation and sorrow as students celebrate one of life's important milestones at the same time they say goodbye to lifelong friends and head in different directions.
At the Sparrows Point High School graduation on June 6, there were more goodbyes than usual.
In addition to the nearly 200 graduating seniors, longtime principal Robert SantaCroce, who will retire June 30, presided over his final commencement exercise.
Superintendent Joe A. Hairston, who will step down from his position on June 30, chose to make the Pointer graduation ceremony his final one as the leader of Baltimore County Public Schools.
Most of the members of the Class of 2012 were entering first grade when Hairston became superintendent in 2000, according to a statement from the school system.
Hairston's signature appears on nearly 100,000 diplomas given to graduates during his tenure.
Graduating Pointers heard inspirational messages from Valedictorian Clayton McKenzie, Salutatorian Alexis Wendt, senior class President Ryan Golden and SantaCroce before they received their coveted diplomas.
Before handing out diplomas, SantaCroce shared with a capacity audience the future plans of the soon-to-be graduates by asking them to stand as he mentioned the variety of options the students have chosen to pursue.
Many students stood as the retiring principal recognized those students who are entering the military, headed to police, fire and rescue and other public safety/emergency services training, joining the workforce or enrolling in post-high school technical training.
Eleven years ago, SantaCroce said, less than 5 percent of Sparrows Point's graduating class had plans to attend two- or four-year colleges.
"So those who are attending two- or four-year colleges, please stand and join your classmates," SantaCroce said.
The audience erupted in cheers as the bulk of the Class of 2012 stood to acknowledge the recognition from their family members, friends, neighbors and educators.
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