After a brief rain shower prompted guests to seek refuge in the fieldhouse, the sun emerged from the clouds in time for just under 400 seniors to step on the turf at Legends Stadium and receive their diplomas June 6, as the 54th graduating class of Cape Henlopen High School.
Class President Hussain Mahdi told classmates their high school years were long, and began in a different decade when wearing a mask was part of a Halloween costume or skin care solution.
It wasn’t a typical four years, he said. Freshman year began but did not end as a classic year, and sophomore year wasn't real, he said, as some kids weren’t in the building at all. Junior year was a mask year, and in senior year, many students had compressed schedules.
“The Class of 2023 never truly had a single normal year of high school,” he said. “And yet like always, we persisted and prevailed.”
Cape High teacher Rachel Peacock introduced Valedictorian Abigail Betts as someone who elevates the performance of those around her. Peacock said she would anticipate what questions Abby would ask while she planned her lessons.
“As a result, her curiosity made me a better teacher for everyone in the room,” Peacock said.
In thinking about what graduation means, Betts said she determined that graduation is not the beginning of something or the end of anything.
“This moment is a port in the inevitable and never-ending storm of changes that occur in our lives,” she said.
“This chapter of our lives will always be a part of us,” Betts said. Graduation is a respite before a new series of changes and challenges, she said, so take time to celebrate accomplishments and prepare for the daunting and exciting changes that lie ahead and provide the opportunity to grow.
The evening’s celebration marks the culmination of years of hard work, dedication and personal growth, said Principal Kristin DeGregory.
“You have grown in your academic pursuits, conquered many challenges, performed beautifully on stage and in athletic arenas,” DeGregory said. “You have developed into remarkable individuals. The memories you have created are not just snapshots of the past.”
These memories will continue to guide students as they embark on the next chapter of their lives, DeGregory said. They will face new challenges and encounter unfamiliar territory, she said, but these memories are treasures that hold valuable lessons and contain the power to help them reflect and make decisions.
Superintendent Bob Fulton said students have proven time and again that they possess the spirit of resilience and determination.
“You have weathered many storms, both literally like this evening and metaphorically, and emerged stronger than ever,” Fulton said. “Just as our shorelines sometimes withstand the battering of the waves, you too have faced so many challenges head on, and those obstacles, you faced with grace and perseverance.”
Fulton said his proudest moments as their superintendent came in watching them exemplify the spirit of community, family and Cape spirit by supporting other classmates and community members.
“And by the strength of one, the strength of a few, or the strength of many, you were able to comfort and motivate so many people,” Fulton said. “You all have exemplified the true meaning of compassion and service.”
This spirit was evident as students energized and lifted the boys’ volleyball team to the state’s first championship, he said to cheers from the crowd.
Fulton urged graduates to embrace the diversity of thought and culture that surrounds them and know that they are now agents of progress and architects of a brighter future.
“Know that Cape will always be your home,” Fulton said.
Class Vice President Thomas Gibbs announced class gifts, a new scoreboard for Legends Stadium that will face opposite the main scoreboard, and a walkway and planting of a tree at the entrance of the J Wing.
All students wore blue gowns with gold bands on their arms, the colors of Cape Henlopen School District.
This year’s ceremony marks the 144th anniversary of the awarding of public school diplomas in the Cape Region.
Check back for more graduation photos, and see more coverage in Cape Gazette’s commemorative graduation booklet in the Friday, June 16 edition.