NORTH EAST — Rising Sun High School was treated to a beautiful setting sun as 286 members of the Class of 2018 graduated on Thursday evening on the high school football field.

The weather managed to stay absolutely perfect as families, friends, and graduates piled into the parking lot and into the queue for the ceremony, and the excitement was palpable from the start.

“I’ve been nervous since I left the house this morning,” graduate Rachel Rhoades said. “But I’m very excited too.”

Rhoades said that after graduation she planned to study at Cecil College for two years and eventually go on to study equine therapy.

“I’m so proud of the beautiful woman she’s growing to become,” her father Rob Rhoades said. “I’m just super proud that she’s going to be a great member of society. We couldn’t have a more special daughter.”

As the ceremony was about to begin, parents and relatives could barely hold in their emotion for their loved ones, and as the students began to march out to “Pomp and Circumstance,” the mood in the air was one of reverence and pride.

“I’m emotional, proud, and excited for the next step of her journey, but also reflective,” said Tim Hare, whose niece Elizabeth Zatalava is set to head to the University of Findlay to play lacrosse and also study forensic chemistry.

The ceremony began with Rising Sun High School Principal Charles Helm delivering some opening remarks recognizing faculty, staff, and other administration officials who were present at the event.

The school chorus performed a beautiful rendition of the national anthem, and went on, along with two students soloists, to perform a touching song called “You Will Be Found,” striking a tone of bittersweet melancholy amidst the joy of the day.

Valedictorian Thomas Morris’ speech focused on self pride and reliance, as well as believing in one’s own ability to achieve any goal they set before them.

“These past four years have been filled with joy and hardship,” he remarked. “Everyone had their own obstacles, joys, and failures ... but it’s up to you to make your future a reality.”

While also thanking teachers and other faculty that had done so much for all the students, Morris went on to tell the students to thank themselves as well.

“We are the ones who get out of bed every morning ... you are the deciding factor in your own life,” he said, ending with “Your life is your own. It’s up to you to make the most of it.”

After the diplomas were handed out to each member, families were ecstatic as they ran onto the football field to embrace their loved graduates.

Jay DeJesus’ son Evan was one of 16 students who chose to join the armed forces after college, and the U.S. Marines Corps no less.

“I think he’s ready,” Jay said. “They prepared him well and I couldn’t be prouder of him.”

“I’m very proud of myself,” Evan said. “It’s an honorable path.”

Caroline Anderson is the only child of Melody and Bob Anderson, and as such, both parents’ emotions were running high. Caroline will be going onto a job at The Professional Ballet Theatre of Maryland and to study nutrition at Anne Arundel Community College.

“I’m very emotional,” Melody said. “It’s a huge accomplishment for her to be getting a job at The Professional Ballet Theatre.”

“I’m just so happy she’s pursuing her dream,” Bob said.

As for Caroline, like so many other graduates, preparedness was the word of choice for the next phase of their lives, despite the sting of sadness of leaving acquaintances and friends behind.

“Of course I’m sad to leave some friends behind,” she said, “but I feel prepared to move on to the next chapter.”

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