Appreciating life in the present moment was the message Lauren Hamilton, a senior at Meade High School, shared as the keynote student speaker at the graduation ceremony for the Class of 2018 on Friday.
The school presented 385 seniors with their high school diploma as classmates, family members and friends cheered them on in a two-hour ceremony at the Showplace Arena in Upper Marlboro.
Meade High Principal John Yore greeted students as they walked across the stage to receive their diploma and pose for a photograph.
The class valedictorian, Megan Papali, will study biology at the University of Maryland. Salutatorian Sal-Jenna Carton will study science and material engineering at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Two students were awarded full-tuition scholarships: Alicia Mitchell will attend the University of California Los Angeles, and Zion Jones will attend Dartmouth University in New Hampshire.
Two students will attend military academies. Emylyn Porter will attend the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. Eric Weaver will attend the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va.
Senior Erin Heritage was named first team All-Anne Arundel County in girls lacrosse by the Anne Arundel County Coaches’ Association and the Capital Gazette newspaper.
Heritage also received the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association’s Minds in Motion Scholarship.
In her speech, Hamilton, who graduated summa cum laude, spoke of the value of being “in the now.”
“We are able to hold on to the experiences that affect us, and awareness of those experiences creates moments that shape who we are as people,” she said. “We realize that although there are times when we are not where we want to be, these are the times that shape us into the people that we need to be.”
Hamilton said her most memorable moment of the school year was Meade High’s participation in the nationwide student walkout in response to the shootings in Parkland, Fla.
“That day was cold, the wind was biting at our faces and we were freezing in silence on bleacher seats for what felt like an eternity,” she said. “But we recognized that moment as something much bigger than ourselves, and our presence allowed us to push through even the most uncomfortable conditions.”
Hamilton quoted Eckhart Tolle, a popular author of metaphysics, to guide peers in their quest to be present in their everyday lives.
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have,” she said. “Make ‘the now’ the primary focus of your life.”