Members of the Class of 2022 had one more quick adjustment to make before graduation. In hopes of beating a storm that was forecast to sweep the area this afternoon, the school moved its ceremony up by 15 minutes, from 1 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. Thursday. Pivoting is the name of the game for members of the Class of 2022 who completed their high school years during a pandemic.

“Even though our journeys have led us to the same destination here today how we got here could not have been more different,” salutatorian Alyson Smallhorn said. She employed a driving metaphor to further explain. “Some of us drove alone, others carpooled. Some of us walked, and others ran. One or two of us were probably chauffeured. And still, there were many others who just rode the party bus. But no matter which method of transportation we took, we found the right blend of effort and luck to find the finish line,” said Smallhorn who will travel to the University of Maryland, College Park in the fall. While she is undecided on her major, she is leaning toward psychology.

When asked to describe the Class of 2022, Principal Shanif Pearl said the students were “Compassionate. Responsible. Role Models. Exemplary and minding your business.”

“It is no secret your high school career has been anything but normal. However, what is important we were able to prevail. You did not have a playbook to look through or ask family or friends how to manage through a pandemic and yet you did it.”

Pearl complimented the students on navigating virtual learning and returning to in-person learning with COVID-19 guidelines in place. Despite leaving in-school instruction as sophomores, they returned as seniors — the leaders of the student body.

“You were quick to adapt and set a precedent for the underclassmen. You showed up and embodied what it truly meant to have Cougar Pride. You have walked the halls of Stone this past year being compassionate to those around, showing empathy and being mindful of what others are going through while checking in on one another,” she said. “You were exemplary.”

Valedictorian Gabrielle Dorsey, who will attend the University of Maryland, College Park in the fall to study animal science in hopes of becoming a veterinarian, asked her classmates to continue to cultivate that empathy and compassion, as well as work to bring about change.  

“We need to appreciate the fact that we made it to this point,” Dorsey said before remembering the victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas. “That marked the 212th mass shooting of this year,” she said. “We graduates are truly blessed to attend this graduation.”

Dorsey said she refuses to stay silent and urged her classmates to make their voices heard.

“There must be alternatives. I refuse to settle into the ‘It’s not here’ mindset. I refuse to never feel safe. I refuse to stay silent about another public health issue,” she said.

Putting off working on an easy-to-solve problem does not make it go away, instead, it allows it to grow into a monster, Dorsey explained. “Graduates don’t succumb to the monster. Continue to be resilient, understanding, and promote what unites us. Continue to be the leaders and innovators this world definitely needs. You have a blank slate ahead of it — utilize it.”

Thomas Stone’s Class of 2022 set a record for the highest scholarship offers in the school’s history netting more than $29.5 million in offers. To learn more about graduation and find links to watch ceremonies, click here.

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