PERRYVILLE — Noah Gravely had mixed emotions as he walked in the processional toward the football stadium Thursday night, along with approximately 175 other members of Perryville High School’s Class of 2019.

“This is bittersweet. I’m excited about moving on,” explained 18-year-old Gravely, who plans to study biology at Harford Community College and later marine biology elsewhere. “But I’ve invested four years of my life at this school. Some of my friends I’ve known since kindergarten or pre-K, and now we’re all leaving, so it’s pulling on my heartstrings a little bit.”

Gravely apparently wasn’t alone.

The graduation speakers during PVHS’s 109th commencement ceremony looked forward to the future while also reflecting on the past.

Chloe Elizabeth Ports, senior class president, touched on some of the collective memories of the past four years and referred to PVHS as a “safe haven” for students.

“Today we face a universal truth, whether we want to or not, that everything eventually comes to an end,” Ports told her fellow classmates, after reporting that PVHS’s Class of 2019 had earned more than $7 million in scholarships, that 67% of the graduates would be going on to two-year or four-year colleges, seven had enlisted in the military and 42 had graduated from the Cecil County School of Technology.

Toward the end of her speech, Ports said, “But just because we’re moving on, and that may be extremely intimidating, there’s some people that have become so much a part of us, they’ll be with us no matter what. This place and these people are the solid ground and small clear voices that will always be with us.”

She concluded with, “Once a panther, always a panther,” referring to the school mascot.

The salutatorian, Emma Rose Klepitch, who earned a 4.898 weighted GPA, urged her fellow graduates to live life to the fullest — second by second.

“Life is the most precious and impactful thing that we as humans can offer the world, and it’s comprised of these seconds. From this moment forward, don’t waste a second of your life. Use those seconds to live. Live to make up for your mistakes because there will be many. Live for the moment. Live for your future, as uncertain as it is. But, most importantly, use those seconds to live for yourself,” Klepitch said.

The valedictorian, Isabella Elizabeth Petrecca, who earned a weighted GPA of 4.907, referenced Ralph Waldo Emerson at the outset, quoting, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

Petrecca then encouraged her fellow graduates to make time for reflection — to recall where they’ve been, what they’ve done, who they admire, what traits that admired person possess, what traits they possess and how they would like to move forward based on the past.

“Reflection is one of the two keys to success that my parents taught me. The other is a strong work ethic. Reflection gives you a realistic plan, and work ethic sets your potential in motion,” Petrecca said.

Also making commencement remarks were PVHS principal Justin Zimmerman, who oversaw his last graduation before moving to take over Bohemia Manor middle and high schools next school year, and Cecil County Board of Education President William H. Malesh, who presented the diplomas as the graduates walked across the stage.

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