The 479 members of Northwest High School’s Class of 2015 were all dressed up and ready to greet the world as high school graduates on Tuesday afternoon at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC, but they were encouraged to be open to getting messy by speakers during the ceremony.
As they gathered with their family and friends, and donned their caps and gowns, the Class of 2015 were reminded of their time at Northwest, of accomplishments in the classroom and on the playing fields, including two Maryland State football championships. However, while they were lauded for their successes, they were encouraged not to be afraid of failure.
Student Speaker senior Tucker Sharpe reminded his fellow classmates of Ms. Frizzle the teacher from the television show the Magic School Bus who would encourage students to “take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.”
“What better way to continue to learn and grow,” said Sharpe, who will attend the University of North Carolina in the fall. “Mistakes are always learning opportunities and teachable moments. Life is rarely tidy, rules are broken and trouble is made. Things will go wrong. We will get messy. In friendships, business and love we will get messy.”
Commencement Speaker and Northwest Social Studies Teacher and Wrestling Coach Joseph Vukovich, also touched on the importance of learning from failure. He prefaced his remarks by wondering if he, a mere teacher was qualified to give a commencement address to a high school class.
“I am not a local celebrity. I am not a person in politics, nor am I an individual who has made some kind amazing discovery. My greatest accomplishment in life thus far is getting to point where I don’t care what people think and say about me,” said Vukovich.
“As a teacher and coach, I have touched the lives of nearly 2,000 students in my career. I had an impact on your high school experience at Northwest and as you go out into the world to make a difference. That is what makes me qualified to speak to you today,” said Vukovich. “That is priceless to me.”
“Winning in life is about sacrifice and failure,” he said. “Winning is a way of life, it is not just a desire. Raise your goals high and reach very high to achieve them. Keep reality always where it is knowing that you will fail at some point in life and get back up and stay firm in knowing who you are.”
Northwest Principal Lance Dempsey rattled off the Class of 2015’s many accomplishments, including having received over 900 offers of admission to attend over 240 different colleges and universities. “Members of the Class of 2015 have received $13,459,335 in scholarship offers,” said Dempsey, “and 92 percent of the graduating class plans to attend a two- or four-year college or university. Our graduation rate will be 96 percent this year.”
Members of the Northwest Class of 2015 will attend many prestigious colleges and universities in the fall including Yale University, Brown University, Princeton University, Stanford University, MIT, and the United States Air Force Academy and the United States Naval Academy.
But even she spoke of their successes and great potential Dempsey let her soon-to-be former students know that failure was enviable and welcomed. “As you embark upon the next phase of your life, know that the world awaits you with open arms. Be curious. Be compassionate. Take chances. Get messy. Trust and believe in yourselves and follow your dreams. Challenge yourself each and every day and never give up – no matter what. Mistakes, bad days and failures are all wonderful lessons that will make you stronger and build your character. Surround yourselves with the people who love you. The world needs you and your talents.”
Top: The Northwest High School Class of 2015
Next: The Northwest JROTC presents the colors during the National Anthem.
Next: Senior Speaker Tucker Sharpe.
Next: Commencement Speaker, Northwest Teacher and Coach Joseph Vukovich.
Last: Graduating seniors receive their diplomas.
Photos by Germatown Pulse.