The Student News Site of Oakdale High School

The Oakdale Post

The Student News Site of Oakdale High School

The Oakdale Post

The Student News Site of Oakdale High School

The Oakdale Post

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The Bittersweet Joy of Oakdale’s 2024 Graduation

Senior+Alex+Beck+waves+the+Oakdale+flag+to+signify+the+end+of+the+Graduation+Ceremony.
Jonathan Castle
Senior Alex Beck waves the Oakdale flag to signify the end of the Graduation Ceremony.

“I chose not to focus on [the challenges of the pandemic] in my speech this year,” Oakdale principal and graduation emcee Bill Caulfield shared, reflecting on the ceremony. “I know that this class persevered through some challenges, but I think they’re stronger because of it. I really wanted to focus on the positives.” Graduation, he later explained, is the culmination of that perseverance. 

On Thursday, May 23, 2024, at approximately 1:30pm, Oakdale High School’s graduating class of 2024 made their way into the brimming Knott Arena at Mount Saint Mary’s University to officially bid farewell to Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS). The ceremony featured speeches, performances, the distribution of diplomas, and, as Caulfield put it, Senior Alex Beck “almost tackling” the administration team with the Oakdale flag. 

The first of the student speakers was McKenzie Mollica, a member of the graduating class, as well as a myriad of extracurriculars. “To me,” she expressed, “a good graduation speech is one that anybody could apply to their life. It’s important to remember that you’re speaking to more than just the seniors; you’re speaking to parents, teachers, siblings, and anybody that watches the graduation.

Prior to the ceremony, Mollica articulated the complex feelings that such an event entails: “I’m most looking forward to seeing everyone for one last time. It will be bittersweet, but life has to move on at some point!”

That bittersweet contradiction is something Caulfield is well aware of, and something he tries to drive at with his speech. While “there are some long, hard days for teachers and administrators, there are also these moments that keep bringing you back and graduation is one of those that just fills [your] bucket every year.”

“[One of the most rewarding things about graduation, for me, is] the opportunity for students to showcase their talents,” Caulfield elaborated. One of these showcases is the annual musical selection, performed by a member (or members) of the senior class. This year, Sheridan and Samantha Harrison, on euphonium and tuba respectively, took to the stage to perform a rendition of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s song, “Somewhere,” from the musical West Side Story.

“[My] dad actually brought [up the song] to [Samantha and I]. We listened to the lyrics and thought the meaning behind them fit perfectly,” Harrison explained. She hoped that the piece, with its themes about a hopeful future, would resonate with the graduating class and have meaning to the audience. Their performance received rapturous applause. 

Graduation is about many things. It’s about receiving a diploma and being recognized for completing secondary education in the state of Maryland, but it’s also about celebrating people’s work, the community’s qualities, the challenges surmounted, the wins won, and everything in between. 

“I wanted the students to know they earned a really great accolade and it wasn’t just about what they do in the classroom but the way we take care of each other and the environment they helped build along with the staff in the school. I mean, I loved it all, and it made me more emotional than I thought it would,” Mr. Caulfield confessed. 

“I think a lot of times we forget the amazing things that happen at schools,” Caulfield continued. “We don’t take enough time to celebrate the wins of school and the great moments and so graduation is that reminder every year of why we do what we do. And for families too, [graduation is] a great amount of positivity and a great way to end the year. And that’s what’s important to me: that everyone’s smiling at the end.”

With graduates and staff being joined by the audience on the field outside the stadium, the students took photos, posed with family and friends, and said goodbyes to their classmates. As the crowd thinned, the class of 2024 had officially left FCPS. 

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About the Contributor
Jonathan Castle
Jonathan Castle, Editor
Jonathan is a Junior at Oakdale, in his second year of Journalism. He enjoys playing Trombone in both jazz and concert ensembles. He also loves watching and writing about classic movies, in both critical and historical contexts. He is very excited to be returning to the Oakdale Post this year!
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