ELKTON — As Fiona McNicholl walked across the stage to accept her diploma Friday, she did so as one of five Elkton High School graduates who will be enlisting in the military.

McNicholl, who will be leaving to go to bootcamp in September as she joins the U.S. Marines Corps, said serving in the military has been a dream for her as long as she can remember.

“I’ve always wanted to be in the military. It’s always been a part of me,” she said, adding that she also plans to study to become a veterinarian while serving in the military.

As she enters the next chapter of her life, McNicholl advised her peers to stay determined in pursuit of what they want to do in life.

“Follow your dreams … There’s really nothing else to it. Just do what you want to do and keep pushing,” she said.

Her father, Seamus, said he was proud of her for reaching this milestone and that he is looking forward to her accomplishing another one in a few months.

“I can’t wait until November when she graduates boot camp … That’ll be unbelievable,” he said.

Also surrounded by family Friday afternoon was graduate Donald Davis III, who plans on studying journalism at Morgan State University and hopes to one day work for ESPN.

“It’s only the beginning for me,” Davis said.

Davis encouraged the high schoolers who come after him to put in the hard work and dedication to achieve their goals.

“Do your work,” he said. “Don’t slack off.”

Although being a parent has its ups and downs, Davis’s mother, Tamika, said she was thrilled to see her son graduate.

“I’m very proud of my son,” she said. “It has been a journey, but I am so proud of him and I love him so much.”

In his speech during the graduation ceremony, senior class president Cameron Spaeth recognized the teachers, administrators, family members and other people who made this moment possible for himself and his fellow graduating seniors.

“We could not have made it without everyone’s endless support,” he said.

But Spaeth especially took time to pay tribute to the parents and guardians who raised these students into the young adults they are today.

“We thank the parents for late nights and early mornings,” he said.

Elkton High School Principal David Foye encouraged the graduates to hold themselves accountable, adapt to change and take initiative. By doing those things, he said the graduates would “level up” in life wherever they go.

“Everybody wants to be somebody, but there is a scarcity of people who will hold themselves accountable … Be the person that does what you say you’re going to do, not the other way around,” Foye said.

“By embracing change while others remain stagnant, you raise your level of expectation … By taking initiative, you raise your level of expectation and it moves you to the front of the pack,” the principal went on to say.

Class of 2019 Valedictorian Connie Chen said the path each graduate takes in life will differ, but she encouraged everyone to enjoy the journey.

“We may walk down that path leisurely or we may run straight ahead,” she said. “Whatever method we choose to use, however, do not forget to enjoy the scenery. While we should work toward our goals, we should also appreciate the world around us and those who we meet along the way.”

Chen acknowledged that some graduates know exactly what they want to do in life, while others may still be figuring that out. But no matter the road ahead, Chen advised her classmates to keep moving forward and make the journey with people who will be there to support them along the way.

“Spend time with those who have helped you along the path and enjoy your life,” she said. “Our roads will intersect with others and there may be obstacles blocking the way. We may fall off that trail, or it may take us to a completely different destination than where we believe we will end up. However, this is our life, these are our paths, and we will journey down it. We will overcome the obstacles, get back on the trail, and go where we want to go.”

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