When he was five years old, Semaj Rascoe wanted to be a tiger. His friends said they would grow up to be dentists or lawyers; Rascoe wanted to be a fierce cat, but a teacher dashed his hope. Yet, his wish – in a way – came true. He grew up to be a Thomas Stone High School cougar and the valedictorian of the Class of 2018.

Rascoe urged his fellow graduates to hold on to their imaginations as they navigate the “real world.” The world they will be entering will need creative thinkers, those with original ideas and the will to make them a reality.

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“I can stand here and explain to you numerous examples of people who have used their imaginations to carry out their dreams,” Rascoe said. “But I would rather hear your dreams. I would rather see your futures and I would rather see you succeed because with imagination your potential is limitless.”

The potential Stone graduates possess will be tested and risks will need to be taken, said salutatorian Skyler Wells. “By taking risks, mistakes will occur. Learning from these mistakes will become your guiding light,” she said. “So, don’t be afraid. None of us is perfect … Don’t forget to be yourself so you can blossom into the person you are meant to be in this maze called life.”

While looking forward to their futures, the students remembered a friend they lost in March 2017. Keymar Green and Sequoyah Saunders spoke of LaShelle Goodwin who was killed during the class’s junior year. “She was an amazing person,” Saunders said, recalling how her friend always had a sketch book with her. Goodwin was an artist and photographer, part of a “little family” friends formed in first period photography class, Green said. Saunders was Goodwin’s friend since middle school, and as the years grew, so did their friendship. “As I came to know her, I saw her true colors,” Saunders said. “And they were beautiful.”

The 260-member Thomas Stone Class of 2018 earned more than $10 million in scholarships. Cougars will head to colleges and universities like George Washington University, Hampton University and San Diego State University. Some will enter the workforce, while others will serve in the armed forces.

“Thomas Stone releases its graduates into the world on this remarkable day and unlike the teacher who would not accept a tiger,” Rascoe said. “The world will gladly accept a cougar.”

Thomas Stone’s graduation was the sixth of seven high school ceremonies set to take place this weekend at the Charles County Convocation Center at North Point High School. Photos from all high school graduations will be posted on the school system website at http://www.ccboe.com/index.php/graduation-2018 concluding each ceremony.

About CCPS

Charles County Public Schools provides 26,900 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.

The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.