Commencement speakers called the class of 2012 unique, phenomenal, extraordinary and stellar among a string of accolades that went on nearly as long as the processional line of about 300.
In total, the class that filed into Legends Stadium June 5 under the crisp, evening sky earned about $2 million in scholarships and will attend 71 colleges and postsecondary institutions in 23 states.
"You have defined yourselves as high achieving," said Principal Brian Donahue, congratulating students on academic and athletic successes that included state and conference championships. "You have made Cape Henlopen a great place to teach and work … You have made us all proud, and we know you will continue to do so for years to come."
Assistant Superintendent Robert Fulton offered pragmatic words of advice for graduates as they enter the next phase of their lives.
"There are no guarantees in life," he said. "The only guarantee in life is that after graduation it will be full of ups and downs, twists and turns."
He also warned students not to be discouraged when life does not turn out as planned. Embrace life and take the opportunity to seize the next challenge, he said. How you react to adversity will define you more than how you react to success, he said.
Class President Jaclyn Coveleski brought levity to the ceremony when she unraveled an 8-foot list of everything she wanted to say about the class of 2012. She kept true to a friend's advice to keep her speech short, yet long enough to blow up a beach ball as suggested by another. She even worked in a yolo reference – reminding everyone you only live once.
Coveleski – a National Honor Society student and three-sport athlete who garnered state player of the year honors for both field hockey and lacrosse in addition to the elected position as president – described a competitive atmosphere at Cape that pushed students to do their best.
"I feel so fortunate to be pushed by people with such high standards," she said.
As they leave the comfortable boundaries of Cape Henlopen School District, Coveleski said, students may go places where they will feel pain, discrimination and outright cruelty. She encouraged her classmates to rise to future challenges as they leave their high school years behind.
"I beseech you to continue to let yourself shine after graduation," she said.
In the biggest lead-in of the night, teacher Graceleane Gibbs-Tabler introduced Valedictorian Sarah Meding in Spanish and English, recounted Sarah's early years at the high school, praised Sarah's parents for raising her, extolled Sarah's ability to make chocolate chip cookies and even sang a song for her.
"Sarah, you were a teacher's dream," Gibbs-Tabler said. "You are simply the best."
Sarah took it all in stride as she took the stage for her valedictory address. She recalled collective memories of mice in the heaters at the former ninth-grade academy, scenic runs around the pond and school policy requiring students cover holes in their clothes with duct tape.
"We remained a close-knit and tight group," she said. "After this day all of our lives will be different … We are now our own responsibility."
Commencement speaker Tony Sposato stressed the importance of work ethic, money management, team playing and family. A youth left fatherless by an untimely death, his first job was cleaning stalls at a horse farm. High school and college sports accomplishments led to his first job as a physical education teacher and coach in the Caesar Rodney School District before he began his landscaping business. A tutorial on making meatballs segued into the importance of family as Sposato explained how he makes time for his family every day.
"You do these basics, and you're going to be productive," he said.
For its class gift, the senior class donated money to pay for improvements to the field house tunnel and entrance to Legends Stadium.
For more coverage of commencement, see the Cape Gazette's Friday, June 8 edition. A commemorative booklet honoring the class of 2012 will be inserted in the Friday, June 15 edition.