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North Laurel graduates toss their hats into the air as their final act of high school.

The 2018 graduating class of North Laurel High School touted themselves as one of the most successful classes in the school’s 26 years, and they made some changes to prove it.

Traditionally, the female graduates wore green gowns while the male graduates donned the blue to represent the school colors. But this year, all 299 graduates wore blue gowns with a white stole embossed with the NLHS mascot and graduation year in green. The graduates were also seated alphabetically in rows rather than the separate sections for males and females.

Valedictorian Walker House said the 26th graduating class was “one of the most successful classes to ever graduate from North Laurel High School” during his address.

That statement was backed up by Principal Mike Black, who challenged graduates to focus on what they could do to improve the world.

“Don’t try to be the best in the world, strive to be the best for the world,” he said. “Live your life to the fullest and always help others.”

Laurel County School Superintendent Dr. Doug Bennett announced that the 26th graduating class had netted nearly $3 million in scholarships this year and had been named as one of America’s best high schools, according to the U.S. News and World Report. He also advised graduates to keep their principles and outlined some of those.

“Keep learning and striving,” he said, “Let that drive you beyond what you think your limitations are. Add to your body of knowledge and love your country because we live in the greatest country in the world. And last, live by the Golden Rule, to treat others like you want to be treated. Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk.”

Senior Class President Winston Benge launched the student addresses, telling his classmates he was “privileged to study and grow up” with each of them.

“Most of us grew up living in this environment that has shaped us. This diploma is not a symbol that we are prepared for the world, but proof of our persistence,” Benge said. “Our generation is faced with problems that concerns more than just us, it concerns the world. We live in a time when everything we say or do can go on the Internet. But we have the technology to discuss openly what is going on.”

Benge praised his classmates for their achievements, especially those who wore special recognition symbols.

“If I’d studied harder, maybe I’d have been wearing the bling that looks so good on all of you,” he said. “But this is proof that the tassel is worth the hassle.”

The three Salutatorians followed Benge in addressing their classmates for their final time.

Brian Gray thanked all staff at NLHS, even the “janitors, lunch ladies and security” for their support of students. He then encouraged his classmates for their future endeavors.

“Find something to be passionate about,” he said. “Work hard, set goals and in five, ten or fifteen years, be the best version of yourself that you can be. I’m proud of this school, proud to be a Jaguar. Congratulations Class of 2018.”

Maggie Howard took the podium and told her classmates to “make every moment matter.”

“There are times that quitting will seem inevitable. You may not see the purpose but there is one - don’t miss it,” she said. “Be who you’re called to be.”

She then lead a prayer for her classmates and their families.

Timothy Neukom told his classmates that life was filled with “tough choices” and that success was defined on how they dealt with those choices.

“Risks and tough decisions are necessary, but a quote from Mark Twain says that when we look back 20 years from now, we will be more disappointed by what we didn’t do than by what we did do.”

House wound down the student speakers, saying he would miss high school although not the school pizza. He told his classmates to remain grounded and focused on the future with another quote.

“Never let success get to your head and never let failure  get to your heart,” he said. “Congratulations. We made it!”

njohnson@sentinel-echo.com

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