Rainy days rolled away to allow Indian River High School to celebrate its 48th commencement exercises in a sunny football stadium on May 31.
This year, about 84 percent of the graduates will enter post-secondary school, including 122 students planning to attend Delaware or Delmarva schools.
“What a group of young adults! And we are proud of you,” said Principal E. Bennett Murray IV as the sun set over his final graduation ceremony as principal.
The Class of 2017 has grown together, from nervous freshmen to more ambitious seniors, said Class President David Clark. He said he believes great hardships make way for great successes.
Coastal Point photos • Tyler Valliant and Sam Ellis
“We are leaving our training grounds. … We can all change the world if we put our minds to it,” said Clark, thanking the family members and teachers who helped them grow.
He and other speakers also honored their late classmate Trevor Kramer, who passed away from brain cancer in spring of 2016.
“He had a huge heart, and the one thing he taught me before he left us is that we can never ever give up. … Let’s never stop going after what we want. We will never settle.”
For perhaps the first time in school history, two students tied for valedictorian honors, with a grade-point average of 4.756.
“We all have different passions and interests that will influence what role we will play in this world,” said co-Valedictorian Erin Haden. As people pursue their dreams, she said, “Don’t be satisfied with simply meeting your standards. Put your full effort in every single step of the way, and work hard to be your best at whatever you are doing. The true feeling of success will come from the hard work you put into what you love. … It’s not the titles, it’s whether you love what you’re doing.”
Co-Valedictorian Haden McWilliams thanked his classmates for the memories. Don’t dwell on the end of this life chapter, but look ahead to the doors that will open, he encouraged.
“The next step is going to be up to each and every one of us,” McWilliams said. “We are going to be taking responsibility for our actions and decisions, and working to ensure a brighter future for ourselves and those around us, in our area and out beyond the farms and chicken houses of Sussex County.”
Guest speaker Sussex County Councilman Rob Arlett encouraged the graduates to have faith, in themselves and others.
“It’s not what you do — it’s what you do with what you’ve got … with the gift you’ve been given every single day.”
Student singers MaKayla DeShields, Berkleigh Fadden, Ivania Perez Martinez and Ayleen Rodriguez sang “Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson and “You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban, as a tribute to Trevor Kramer.
In a surprise announcement at the event, the Indian River High School Alumni Association awarded 10 scholarships. Saray Lopez won the Marla Banks Daisey Memorial Scholarship of $1,350, while nine IR Pride Scholarships, for $1,000 each, were awarded to Paige Troublefield, Samantha Mumford, Patrick Mochiam, Griffin McCormick, John Keller, Alexis Haden, Lindsey Grow, Maggie Ford and David Clark.
“Never forget your green and gold, and where you came from,” said Indian River School District Superintendent Mark Steele, who graduated from IRHS 40 years ago.
Finally, Principal Murray released students to toss their mortarboards into the air, “Class of 2017, you may now celebrate. The night is yours.”