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Messages to the Class of 2022



Dr. Karen Couch, Superintendent
Dr. Karen Couch, Superintendent

Congratulations 2022 Kent County High School Seniors. You have taken your education seriously as evidenced by the many accomplishments your principal shared with us this afternoon.
 
Today, is the culmination of all your years of hard work. You’ve shown great fortitude in the face of adversity and sacrificed in ways we could never have imagined throughout this pandemic.
 
I applaud each one of you for your perseverance.
 
As you enter into the next chapter of your live, please consider these few words of advice:
 
• Always listen to both your heart and your head.
• Always live within your means.
• Pursue your passions, but don’t confuse feelings with facts, fun with happiness, or pleasure with fulfillment.
• And don’t settle for a little life. Fill it with purpose and meaning.
 
Best wishes in the pursuit of your dreams.

When you celebrate today, don’t forget to thank your families and friends for their support and for the sacrifices they’ve made along the way for you!
 
Seniors, congratulations on your success and keep striving toward your bright future with hope.

****

Kris Hemstetter, Principal
 
Thank you, everyone.   

Graduates, families, and distinguished guests thank you for being here at the Trojan Stadium. I am glad we are back face to face to participate and enjoy this with our graduates. More importantly, tonight, I am just excited to have a few minutes to share with our graduates a few words ... from me to them and to share with our families and communities the amazing successes and shout outs for our KCHS students seated right in front of me and you this evening.
 
As I came into school this morning, very early, with this event in mind, I visited the stadium to make sure I put one last look at the chairs and the stage to make sure we were good for this evening. We didn’t have Trojan Troy in here yesterday and I woke up in a panic to text Nate, our lead custodian, and one of the best, to make sure we had time to get it here. My point is … this year has been a year of going from event to event up to this most important night in celebration of our graduates, and I needed to be sure to finalize in my mind that we were ready!
 
And ... as I drove in this morning, I looked at this stadium, which is without a doubt a beautiful space. GO KENT!  

It is a beautiful campus to drive up to in the morning with beautiful memories for me and I hope for you. As the sun opened this morning and our building became awake, what I remembered and was reminded of most importantly is less about the outside of the building and more about what happens on the inside of our building. When I got here this morning that's how I wanted to start today. Thinking about what’s on the inside for all our students. And as I reflected on this, I was reminded of how truly impressive the qualities within each of you are. Not only are those qualities impressive they also had some great challenges that they had to overcome.
 
I recall a social media post several weeks ago, one of those keyboard warriors, mentioned something along the way about schools failing nationally and mentioned data to support it. I am not sure if they were in any way referring to KCPS, but I felt I needed to address the post. I am asking you to look at these students in the face, today, and tell them they are failing. Our students are NOT FAILING ... but sometimes our community is failing our students through false perspectives. With that being said, I am asking you to change your perspective, live in the moment, and listen as I share with you today only some of the true successes of our students.
 
This group has had a unique high school experience this last year right alongside a new Kent County High School Principal and that would be me.  And as I reflected on this class over the last nine months, I remembered a few different things going on along the way to get to where we are today. I remember senior class meetings and Friday dialogues organized by Alana, hard questions that I was asked in the hallway by these students, ideas that were presented to me in my office, and candid conversations at lunch. And I said, “Wow, these students are so honest.” I remember so many times receiving support for the school, for the staff, for these students, each one of them, and was amazed by the thank you’s as I watched each of you serve others, I thought to myself so selfless, so gracious, such leaders. And what I now know as I look at these wonderful individuals, patiently and attentively waiting for me to finish, is that I have consistently been reminded of the beauty within each of you and I have been truly inspired by you as talented and gifted individuals, and even more impressive is the genuine sincerity and selflessness each of you demonstrates daily which allows us to be very proud of you. I will remember this group as a passionately powerful group of leaders with all the beauty available within you. You are the Class of 2022 and the class I began with, and your resilience and generosity are greatly appreciated.   
 
But, before I share with you the huge successes of our students, part of my message today is to make several thank you’s on behalf of our graduates.  There is a deep sense of accomplishment for students, families, faculty, and our community as we reach this day of graduation.
 
Could I please have all parents, guardians, and families rise? This commencement celebrates the successes not only of our students — your children — but also you. Thank you for being a partner in our graduate's educational experience. Your support has helped to make this day possible, and we need to thank you properly. Graduates let's show our gratitude.
 
You may be seated.  
 
The Class of 2022 invited the Principals, Administration, and staff that have supported them from their elementary and middle school years. We are excited to recognize them this evening. Would the staff of our feeder schools — Rock Hall ES, Henry Highland Garnet ES, Galena ES, Kent County Middle School, and Central Office Supervisors, Board of Education Members, and Kent County Commissioners — please stand. I know you feel a sense of pride seeing these young adults today. Many of you have watched them grow from elementary school into middle school and high school. Thank you for providing the building blocks of their education financially, academically, and socially. It does not go unrecognized.
 
You may be seated.
 
Kent County High School Staff: teachers, instructional assistants, custodians, secretaries, cafeteria staff, administrators, our school nurses, counselors, school psychologists, and bus drivers — Please stand. Today we celebrate as a team. Thank you for doing the necessary work of educating our students every day, feeding our students, transporting our students, counseling our students, and keeping us safe. You have all been incredible during this past year while facing transitions yourself.  You have shown resilience and flexibility yourself, which will only serve as a model for our graduates with their next steps in life.  
 
Lastly, thank you to the Town of Chestertown for allowing this stage to leave the town limits for this special occasion at the one and only Kent County High School.
 
So, with that being said, I want to share with you a little bit about the class that we celebrate today and the accomplishments in our school due to THEIR leadership and THEIR pride in KCHS.
 
One hundred twenty-seven seniors are graduating.
 
65% of these seniors were involved in at least one extracurricular beyond the school day at KCHS during their high school career. This is important because it teaches our students that being involved matters, teaches students to build positive relationships, and helps students learn to work together to problem-solve and to use good time management.
 
Nickolas Jones has signed to play soccer at Newmann University.
 
Boy’s Soccer Team won the first-ever Region Championship in school history thanks to Jack Cullum, Conner Dean, Nickolas Jones, Alystair McKenzie, Ronald Parker, Yahir Fernandez Ochoa, Giovanny Reyes Ochoa, and Jose Vela.
 
Jack Cullum was named to the All-Bayside Swim Team.
 
Bianca Potts was named to the All-Bayside Volleyball 2nd team.
 
Anna Phillips was an honorable mention in volleyball.
 
Conner Dean and Nick Jones were recognized and named to the Baseball North Bayside 2nd team.
 
The class of 2021 took 164 Advanced Placement (AP) courses at KCHS and 70 dual enrollment courses from either Chesapeake or Washington College during their high school career. Thank you to Chesapeake and Washington Colleges for being generous partners.
 
Kendell Ford (22 credits), Keira McColigan (18 credits), Kendall Langenfelder (15 credits), Myona Moore (15 credits), and Gracie Walters (15 credits) earned a significant amount of college credits through Chesapeake College. Christopher Hinton was enrolled in dual enrollment through both Washington College and Chesapeake College. 
 
The following seniors graduated in the Top 5% of the class earning a Maryland Certificate of Merit recognition: with the top GPA, Samuel Buckel, Christopher Hinton, Alana Fithian Wilson, Parker Miller, Mackenzie Clark, Conner Dean, Corrina Boyd, Samantha Merrell, and Anna Phillips.
 
Wow ... NOT FAILING.
 
59 students earned the status of a Maryland Scholar from the Maryland Business Roundtable. They received at least a 3.0 GPA, completed at least 2 World Language credits, Chemistry, Physics, AP Science, and Algebra 2.
 
Samantha Merrell, Anna Phillips, Nick Jones, Trista Strong, Andraya Sudler, Reanna Jerns, Parker Miller, Jose Vela, Emma Spray, Faith Riley, Natalie Dobson, Alana Fithian Wilson, and Crystal Covey all offered well over $100,000 in scholarship monies.
 
$4,225,864 and counting in scholarship dollars have been awarded to the Class of 2022 to further their education.
 
Your families thank you for the savings in college tuition.
 
Nope, NOT FAILING.
 
 
70% of the senior class has chosen a CTE pathway to complete over the course of 4 years. These completers are recognized by the colored cords worn today. Out of the 89 completers, 2 students completed 2 CTE Pathways (Trenton Parker and Hunter Bilbrough); 71 CTE students earned a national or state license certification or articulated college credit; 56 students finished a CTE program and have an overall cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. 
 
Huge success ... and NOT FAILING.
 
54% of the class is considered a dual completer. This means they finished a CTE Program and met the minimal requirements needed to enter a 4-year university. KCHS is typically in the top three in the state in this category.
 
Nick Beck, Hayden Heinfield, Parker Miller, Trenton Parker, and Michael Smith completed all 10 Automotive Service Excellence exams.
 
29 seniors participated in an internship with local employers in the community. This included placement at Washington College with a strength and conditioning coach, Chesapeake CNC Manufacturing, Dixon Valve, Harbor Sales, Music Life, and Aqua Fit. We say thank you for the opportunity.
 
We had 2 in-house internships: Jodi Novak completed an event planner internship through Maryland Business Roundtable and Kane Schultz completed a broadcasting internship through WKHS 90.5.
 
Our local radio station, WKHS 90.5 raised over $25,000 in sponsorship support through our local business partners and listener membership donations.  
 
KCHS is the only high school in Maryland with a student-run FM radio station and is in the top 3 high school stations in the nation with the strongest radio signal. Our senior voices, are Kane Schultz, Riley Glenn, Lexus Pritchett, Paige Sutton, Anthony Mallory, Keith Stroup, and Elijah Elbourn
 
Eight students received the seal of biliteracy which means they have attained proficiency in two languages. Notice they are wearing medallions today (Sam Buckel, Andrea Espinal, Yahir Fernandez, Alana Fithian Wilson, Brooke Fithian, Natalia Nava Lopez, Lauci Ortiz, José Vela)
 
Our Brigade of Blue has performed in over 100 band and chorus productions and has won numerous awards. Corina Boyd, Parker Dalrymple, Lorelei Patillo.
 
Joel Painter has won the hearts of the senior class teachers, administrators, and staff by persevering and robustly celebrating accomplishments.
 
Emma Porter and Caradyn Hamlen have created Art Portfolios through the AP Studio Art Course.
 
And finally, our transfer students have shown true resilience and true Trojan Spirit this year. Luke Curran, Jonathan Velido, Tylir Cunningham, Phoebe Smith, William Bankhead, and Nick Beck. 
 
And again, NO FAILURE there ....
 
So, where will the Class of 2022 find themselves next year?
 
• 67% of students are moving on to higher education (includes 2-Year, 4-Year, & Trade) Please stand.

• 28% of students are going into the world of work. Please stand.

• 5% of students are going into the military (Abigail Allgeier, Aron Ashley, Tylir Cunningham, Isaiah Fries, Noah Humphreys, Anthony Mallory). Please stand. Thank you for serving our country to fight for the freedoms we sometimes take for granted.

• Conner Dean will be entering as a cadet with Maryland State Police. Please stand. Thank you for your dedicated service to our citizens.
 
Corrina Boyd is going as far as the University of North Dakota, Natalie Walls and Hunter Benton are going to Florida Atlantic University and Keith Butler is going to CDA Technical Institute in Florida.
 
Jacob Cerino will be traveling to different national parks.  He has a van and is transferring it to a mobile/RV home. We are excited to find out his top three. 
 
I have not captured all the accomplishments, but this gives you a snapshot of the Class of 2022. I hope you will look back on your time here and be proud of where you come from.
 
One final shout-out to the graduating class of 2022.  Never allow anyone to say to you that you are failing. You are NOT FAILING. It is always a great day to be a Trojan.  

Thank you.

****

English teachers Melissa Walters, left, and Caren Saunders deliver the keynote address at Kent County High School's graduation ceremony.
Caren Saunders and Melissa Walters, KCHS teachers

Saying “Good evening honored guests” feels oddly self-serving, so instead we’ll just simply say hello to the class of two thousand twenty-two. We are equally honored, humbled, and horrified that so many of you requested that we speak tonight. And just when we thought you were tired of hearing from us.
 
We do feel the need to open with the obligatory: “You’ve been dealt a rough hand during your high school career. What was an early spring break became a new way of life. It’s hard to recuperate after the craziness that was 2020, yet here you are.” But the truth of the matter is nothing about your high school experience has been normal. You missed out on so much and for that we are sorry. However, the good news is that today is your beginning.
 
Starting today your choices matter, and we don’t mean what time you are waking up tomorrow. We mean bigger choices. What path to take. Which career to choose. What to do with your life. Do you stay here a bit longer or do you go off into the unknown? Regardless of whether you leave, stay, or leave and then come back, know that the choice is ultimately up to you. Not Snapchat. Not Facebook. Not TikTok. It’s all up to you.
 
You may be thinking “that’s easy for you to say. You don’t know what it’s like to be a teen. You’re over 40.” Well believe it or not we were once teens during the glorified perfection of the late 1900s. And we too had to make similar decisions. What to do after high school. Where to go to college. For me it came down to “do I keep my comfortable job at Philadelphia Theatre Company or take a chance on a teaching position at some little high school in Kent County?”  
 
See, at times life can feel like a series of never-ending choices that culminate in exhaustion because you’re too tired to make any more decisions. Instead, we urge you to think about your future as a choose your own adventure book. The best part? Your choices don’t have to mean the end of your story. You can always rewrite your chapter, adjust your character arc, incorporate new friends and get rid of the foes.
 
We do want you to do one thing, one final assignment if you will. Get to know yourself. Who you really are without the influences of those around you. Know your why, not someone else’s. Ultimately you are responsible for your life. 
 
But here’s the catch, cause there’s always a catch: your choices are your responsibility. For the sake of repetition — not Snapchat. Not Facebook. Not TikTok. It’s all up to you.
 
Yes, you will make mistakes, we all do, but they do not need to define who you are at your core. Know yourself. Don’t be afraid to try something new, to make new friends but keep the old. 
 
We can’t tell you the secret to a happy life because it’s different for everyone. What we offer instead is a head’s up on some things you may endure in the upcoming years, if not sooner.            
You will have to navigate complex relationships. This doesn’t necessarily include any of the literary tropes you’ve encountered in English class, but it might. Luckily you won’t be required to write an essay, but you can if you want.
 
You will have hard conversations. Don’t zone out. Stay actively engaged in both speaking and listening.
 
Boundaries will be pushed by others. Know and enforce yours.
 
Keep learning. It’s literally what you were born to do. And remember that learning is messy.
You won’t all be winners at the same time. Relish in the time you are in the lead and know it’s ok to cheer for those in front of you, especially during MarioKart Mondays.
 
Sometimes things won’t go your way. You will fail. Plans won’t come to fruition. And that’s ok. Don’t doom spiral. 
 
Don’t become numb to what’s going on around you. 
 
Listen to others and empathize because you could be in their shoes. And you will. Don’t just be a bystander.
 
Last but certainly not least, learn the fine art of communication. 
 
Most graduation speeches rely on an inspiring quote or two, so here are our compulsory quotes. 
 
New York Times best selling author Mandy Hale said, “To make a difference in someone’s life, you don’t have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful, or perfect. You just have to care.” 
 
Storyteller Andrea Dykstra said it best, “In order to love who you are, you cannot hate the experiences that shaped you.” 
 
Know that this is a special place, frustrations and vent sessions and all. But it is a part of you, it will always be part of you, and that’s wonderful. 
 
Ms. Hemstetter said it best every day, remember, we are Kent and we keep an open mind, exceed expectations and set new ones, never quit trying, and take a positive approach to teaching and learning.
 
Congratulations Class of 2022, and thank you.

English teachers Melissa Walters, left, and Caren Saunders deliver the keynote address at Kent County High School's graduation ceremony.
English teachers Melissa Walters, left, and Caren Saunders deliver the keynote address at Kent County High School's graduation ceremony.

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