A smile came across Carolyn Amirpashaie’s face when she said she was nervous prior to Potomac Senior High’s School’s graduation Monday.
“Now we’re all going our separate ways,” Amirpashaie said before walking out on stage during the playing of “Pomp and Circumstance.”
She was among 248 seniors, some of them friends she has known since kindergarten, who walked across the stage at Nissan Pavilion.
The ceremony was a culmination of 13 years of hard work in school, Principal Jack Parker told the sea of students dressed in navy and light-blue gowns.
About 73 percent or 181 students have plans to go to a college or university, Parker said.
“So yeah, that’s something to cheer about,” Parker said.
The remaining 27 percent or roughly 67 students plan to either go on to the military or a training school, Parker said, noting the numbers mean every student is prepared to move on with their lives.
“Some succeed because they’re destined to but most succeed because they’re determined to,” Parker said.
That’s representative of the Class of 2003, he added.
Charise Marie Arellano, salutatorian, urged the class to do three things throughout their lives: explore, dream, discover.
Arellano became choked up as she reflected on the class’s past four years at Potomac.
She recalled her and classmates being goofy freshmen, when they first arrived to Potomac. By sophomore year, “no longer were we at the bottom of the food chain,” noting each knew more people and had more friends.
Each student explored, she added.
“As juniors we were still exploring,” Arellano said.
During their year, the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks happened, she said.
“There may be some of you who lost someone that day,” Arellano said. “I will never forget where I was that day. I was with all of you.”
The sniper shootings in the Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. areas was another memory of Arellano’s.
“This tragedy too occurred in our own back yard,” Arrelano said.
Arrelano advised the class to never forget the memories they’ve shared.
“Explore. Dream. Discover. Congratulations Class of 2003. We did it,” Arellano exclaimed.
Valedictorian Mark Connolly said he wanted to focus his address on the future rather than recapping the past.
“Tonight marks the beginning of our adult lives,” Connolly said. He encouraged the class to not procrastinate or put things off until next month or next year.
“Make the most of every opportunity that comes your way. Take chances and have no regrets,” Connolly said.
The crowd cheered and gave a warm welcome to a familiar face when Phyllis D. Hollis stood at the podium to speak.
Hollis retired as social studies teacher at Potomac in 2002. Potomac opened in 1979.
As Hollis looked out into the crowd, she said she couldn’t help thinking back to when she taught during the Class of 2003’s freshman year.
“Tonight you do not end your life as a student but you begin your life as an adult in an adult world,” Hollis said. “As you say farewell to us, you say hello to tomorrow.”