- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Even a brief power outage could not stop a Star from shining at Westlake High School’s commencement ceremony for the class of 2012 on Monday.
The ceremony featured an unexpected celebrity guest: Star Jones, a former co-host of ABC talk show “The View” and aunt of graduating Westlake senior Terrell Jones.
Nearly 400 Westlake seniors and their families and friends gathered at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro Monday morning to recognize the class’s achievements throughout the last four years.
During the ceremony, the lights went out briefly during the choir’s rendition of the Class of 2012 song, “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men. That was not enough to hinder the ceremony, which progressed without a hitch.
In her address, Westlake Principal Chrystal P. Benson recognized that the school year that marked the senior class’s last did not begin so smoothly.
“We knew that this class would be the ones to shake things up when in preparing for this year, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake struck,” Benson said. “This may have been the first first day of classes that was canceled due to the weather,” referring to the heavy rains and the remnants of Hurricane Irene that hit the area shortly after the temblor.
Benson also pointed out that the Westlake class of 2012 claimed the only student in the county to have earned the National Achievement Scholarship, Felicia Dillard, and the student member of the Charles County Board of Education, Taylor Brooks.
Westlake seniors also earned a collective $8,651,552 in scholarship and grant money, and will head off to paths ranging from the workforce to the military to prestigious colleges such as Brown University and New York University.
Dillard, who also was the class valedictorian, had only fond words to say for her class.
“Westlake has prepared us to expect more from ourselves,” Dillard said. “I firmly believe we have the potential to fulfill all of our goals.”
Jones spoke to the importance of continuing to strive for education throughout life.
“This will be the first of many personal milestones for all of you,” Jones said. “By sitting here today, all of you are saying you know education and knowledge are power.”
Jones also emphasized what she identified as the three keys to success: someone to love, something to do and something to hope for.
“You have to love yourself first,” Jones said. “You are all worthy of all the good things life has to offer. Approach each day with an attitude of excellence. Be the author of the only dictionary that defines you.”
During her speech, Jones paused to play a sample of Soulja Boy’s song “Turn My Swag On,” which she identified as her personal theme song and the song she uses to begin each day.
“Class of 2012, turn your swag on,” Jones said. “Congratulations, and best of luck.”
Newly graduated Westlake senior Jordan West said she appreciated the time Jones took to address the class.
“It was really cool of her to be here,” West said. “She had a lot of good advice, and she did a great job. It was a really nice ceremony, and I’m glad it was quick. It’s great to have graduated.”