The cool, rainy weather did not dampen the spirits of the 580 seniors who received their diplomas at T.C. Williams High School on Tuesday.
The rain held off long enough for the valedictorian, salutatorian and other students to make their speeches and although it began to rain as they got their diplomas, the graduates could not contain their exuberance.
Class valedictorian, Emily Ewell, looked back on the Class of 2003’s experiences at T.C. and ahead to the future.
“Four years ago, a meek freshman class in which we shadow today embarked on a journey to earn the very diplomas we will receive signed this morning,” she said. “This momentous degree will serve as a great beacon of hope to hundreds of Titans today who have seared in the flames of educational challenges, societal expectations and insufferable SOLs. It comes well-deserved to a class who has worked and sweated and labored to this day, the end of their high-school careers.
“Four years later, we are surprisingly changed. Four years later, we have been bonded by the experiences expected and unexpected in the world around us. Four years later, we have laughed and cried and cheered and sang, and soon we will graduate together. Four years later, we no longer linger in the corners of ignorance but enjoy an educational prosperity through the efforts of our educators and our own unhindered education to learning.
“I have a class that today will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, ‘Titan Pride.’ I have a class that one day we will sit together as lawyers, doctors, musicians, scientists, artists, writers, politicians and teachers. I have a class which has seen and endured together the frightening acts of terrorists on our country. I have a class which celebrated in joy those who have come before us, assuring that everyone will ‘Remember the Titans.’ I have a class that withstood the local threat of the sniper and the larger fear of eating in the cafeteria for three weeks. I have a class that will go onward to do great and wonderful things which I could never dream or expect of them.
“This is our hope. This is the faith in my classmates that I will graduate with. This is the faith we will hold in each other to support us in the exciting times ahead. This will be the day we all say, ‘We are the Class of 2003!’”
EMILY GRADUATED with a grade point average of 4.3. She is a dancer, a member of the T.C. softball team and a member of a variety of clubs. She will attend the University of Virginia in the fall.
Brian Cain was the class salutatorian. He earned the second highest grade point average in the class and will attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the fall, where he will study engineering and forensic science. While at T.C., Brian was the captain of the ice hockey team, a member of the German Club and a member of the National Honor Society.
“Today we sit here on this field, the culmination of the last 12 years of hard work and dedication,” he said. “We have changed dramatically from who we were when we first sat at those desks 12 years ago.
“Today we receive the key to the next chapter of our lives. No one person’s chapter is the same as another’s. Make it the right one for yourself.
“We know what we are, but not what we may be. We are the Titans of 2003,” he said.
Many of the speakers talked about the effects of Sept. 11, terrorist threats and the war in Iraq. “We have been soldiers in two wars — the war on terrorism and the infamous senior slump,” said Lauren Ellis, the class president, as she welcomed everyone to graduation exercises. “This has been a turbulent yet exciting senior year.”
Principal John Porter was aware of the outside forces on the Class of 2003. “This has been a year of snipers, war, orange alert, snow, rain, duct tape and plastic sheeting,” he said. “The Class of 2003 came through because the Class of 2003 has maturity and class.”
THE GRADUATES RECEIVED their diplomas and left T.C. Williams for the last time as a group. Thirty-one of them graduated with better than a 4.0 grade point average. Between 80 percent and 85 percent of them will enroll in some type of postsecondary education. They will attend schools that run the gamut from Ivy League institutions such as Princeton, Yale and Harvard to the University of Virginia, Virginia State, Norfolk State and Old Dominion University. Some members of the Class of 2003 will begin their education at Northern Virginia Community College and then go on to a four-year institution.
One member of the Class of 2003 will attend the Air Force Academy, and two others will attend the U. S. Naval Academy.
Seven members of the class will attend college and participate in the sports that they have loved at T.C. Williams. Perrin Bailey and Jessica Appleton will attend the University of Pennsylvania and will be rowing. Ashley Jones will row at the University of Virginia, and Emily Shuey will attend Clemson University and row.
Lauren Kuhmerker has a soccer scholarship to St. Joseph University in Philadelphia, and Sam Rust will row at Yale. Tony Hunt will play football at Penn State University. While these seven will participate in collegiate athletics at the Division I level, many others have received full or partial scholarships to play sports at the Division II level.
“We are very proud of them because, whatever they do, they are continuing in the tradition of academic excellence that we believe in here at T.C. Williams,” Porter said. “We wish them luck.”