Two hundred ninety-nine Cape Henlopen High School seniors marched onto the football field June 4 for the last time as high school students. Diplomas in hand, they left as graduates.
"You have defined yourself as leaders over the past four years," said Principal Brian Donahue. "You made us all proud."
The Class of 2013 drew distinction as the first graduating class to have spent all four high school years in the new high school.
"Thank you for aiming high and setting a new standard for Cape," said Superintendent Robert Fulton.
Valedictorian Matthew Spicer said he remembers Cape High School was struggling academically when the graduating class entered as freshmen.
"Our class began to turn things around," he said. "Our success can be attributed to two things: Commitment and hard work."
It's a commitment that Class of 2013 Treasurer Sean Grogan kept when he promised Janet Maull-Martin, at the time his principal at Shields Elementary but now assistant principal at the high school, that he would graduate.
On her last day as Shields principal, Grogan said Maull-Martin handed out pennies to all the students in a symbolic gesture of their promise to her that they would graduate from high school.
"Here's my penny, Mrs. Maull-Martin. Thank you for everything," he said before giving her a hug.
Social studies teacher Jeff Evans said the reason teachers teach is to make positive impacts on students lives. Even when students do not like a teacher's decision, Evans said, it is for their own good.
"We take your phone because you're not learning," he said. "When you get to college, they're not going to care if you have a phone or ear buds … We care. Sometimes tough love is the best love. It's better than no love."
As the graduates set out on a new path in life, Evans reminded them to remember who they are.
"Only you know what's on the inside," he said. "Don't let someone label you or define your dreams. You define your own."
The Class of 2013 earned about $2 million in scholarships and will attend a number of different colleges. These include Johns Hopkins University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, University of Colorado, UCLA, the United States Military Academy, Temple University, James Madison University and University of Delaware.