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The sense of community at Joppatowne High School became evident during the school’s 37th annual commencement ceremony Tuesday evening.

As Nichole Murphy, the class valedictorian, took the stage to deliver her speech, she began to cry, but a sea of purple and white Mariners cheered her on.

During Murphy’s speech, she said the Class of 2010 has worked diligently to achieve great things.

“Even though sometimes we haven’t made the best choices, we do have the power to create powerful change,” Murphy said. “Let today be an end to unwise behavior.”

Joppatowne High School Principal Macon Tucker offered Murphy a tissue as she continued her speech.

“As we walk across this stage, we are choosing to accept the responsibility that comes along with being a graduate,” she said. “As citizens, our duty is to support others who seek to create change.”

Murphy encouraged her classmates to register to vote and become active in their community.

“Let tomorrow be a continuation of the progress we’ve made here,” Murphy said. “If you remember what you’ve learned, our futures are limitless.”

In the fall, Murphy, who has a 4.1 GPA, plans to attend Washington University in St. Louis to study architecture.

John Thompson, the class salutatorian, thanked God and his parents for his success.

“Most people know me as a conceited guy... nevertheless, I am humbled to be a part of the most amazing group of young adults I’ve ever met in my life,” Thompson said. “The name of this prestigious group is the Joppatowne High School Class of 2010.”

The other senior Mariners also encouraged Aleishia Joyce, who began to cry during her student address.

Joyce, who was the senior class president, told her classmates to take the time to thank their teachers, friends and parents.

“Never lose power of yourself. Never lose power to others,” Joyce said. “Never belittle yourself just because you think it’s convenient. Claim your right among them. Never let them get you down. Hold your head high and smile.”

For Charles McMillan, Tuesday’s graduation was a bittersweet day.

“It means a lot,” McMillan said as he waited with his friends in the gymnasium before the ceremony. “It’s sad because I’ll miss all my friends.”

McMillan’s family moved to Harford County from New Jersey two years ago because of BRAC and, according to McMillan, those years are full of wonderful memories with classmates and friends.

“The last two years have been great,” he said. “Everybody welcomed me.”

After graduation, McMillan said he plans to attend Morgan State University in Baltimore, where he will study biology.

Graduation was also a meaningful day for Myriha Montgomery.

“It means a lot,” Montgomery said. “I’m excited.”

Montgomery said the memories she’ll treasure are those moments spent with her friends and teammates from track and cheerleading.

In the fall, Montgomery plans to attend Drexel University in Philadelphia, where she will study fashion design.

Before Tuesday’s commencement began, Troy Thompson was spending some quality time with his friends.

“It’s weird,” Thompson said. “We’re growing up now. We’ll never come back here.”

Of all the memories Thompson has made during the last four years, he said hanging out with his friends means the most to him.

After graduation, Thompson plans to attend Harford Community College in the fall and then transfer to The Sheffield Institute for the Recording Arts in Phoenix to become a music producer.

Stephanie Clark said graduation symbolizes a major transition in her life.

“To me, it means growing up and becoming adults,” Clark said. “The last four years have been about becoming adults and taking responsibility.”

Clark also plans to attend Harford Community College and study psychology.

Amanda Hodges is excited to move onto the next step in her life.

During the last four years, Hodges said she has made great friends and learned important life lessons.

Like Thompson and Clark, Hodges also plans to attend Harford Community College and later transfer to Boston University to study premed.

Joppatowne High School’s Class of 2010 also included the nation’s first graduating class of the Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Program.

In the fall of 2007, Joppatowne High School became the country’s first high school to offer the program, which provides students with career skills and technological expertise in the areas of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Elected officials in attendance at Tuesday’s commencement included State Sen. Nancy Jacobs, Del. Rick Impallaria, Del. Pat McDonough and Harford County Councilman Dion Guthrie.

McDonough, who taught some of the students social studies in seventh grade, was greeted with a boisterous round of applause.

“I’m proud of you. You have shown you are ready for this world,” McDonough said. “You have earned your diploma... go out there and enjoy life. You earned it.”

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