Bladensburg grads set new course
June 6, 2002
Jeffrey Lyles
Staff Writer

If the spirit of Bladensburg High School existed solely in the building that has been a fixture of the community since the 1950s, it would have disappeared when the building was torn down, said Principal David Stofa.

But Stofa told Tuesday those in attendance at the class of 2002's graduation at U.S. Air Arena that the true spirit of the school existed in the commitment and teamwork exhibited by the faculty, underclassmen and especially the graduating seniors.

Despite a school year in which the graduating class never spent a minute in the building that had been their second home for the previous three years, Stofa said he was deeply touched by the selflessness of the class.

"I thank you all for all that you've done in such extremely difficult circumstances," Stofa said. "This school year was like no other as we moved from our home to a temporary location. We were successful because you believed in family. You believed in each other, not a building."

Since the early 1980s, the school has been slated for either renovation or reconstruction. It was built in phases and completed in the 1950s.

However, other schools considered in greater need received renovations before Bladensburg, and in some cases, new schools were built entirely ahead of it.

The County Council upgraded the school's status from renovation to replacement in 1999 and construction began this year on the new building, which should be completed by the fall of 2004.

While the school is being completed, Bladensburg High School is operating out of the Belair Annex in Bowie, a building intended to be a middle school.

Although the quarters were cramped, Christopher Brice, who plans to attend Bowie State University, said that since they are responsible adults, the students were able to manage to have a comfortable and peaceful school environment.

With high school behind him, Brice said he is looking forward to his future after graduation.

"It's overwhelming ...words can't express how I feel right now about it," Brice said. "I'm elated."

Rep. Albert Wynn (D-Dist. 4) of Largo congratulated the students on reaching graduation and taking on more personal responsibility.

"The good news is that you make the decisions regarding your life and the bad news is that you make the decisions regarding your life," Wynn said. "There are no accidents in this era. Be a success, find happiness and have an enjoyable life."

State Del. Darren Swain (D-Dist. 24) of Bowie, Bladensburg Mayor David Harrington and Colmar Manor Mayor Diana Fennell also attended the event.

"We are delighted that in a few years we will be replaced by the class of 2002," Harrington said. "I stand today ready to move aside for these great graduates we have here. Congratulations. The best is yet to come."

Valedictorian Denice Liggins said the students have reached a fork in the road and this time, they will stand by themselves as they move forward with their futures.

Salutatorian Alyse Shelton also offered sound advice and a challenge to her fellow classmates.

"I have two challenges for you all today," Shelton said. "Dare to be different and dare to make a difference. It's so easy to be like everyone else, but when you step away and see what a beautiful person you are, you'll begin to make your difference. Use your talents to make this world a better place."

Jatwan Black, who will be attending North Carolina Central in the fall, said his years at Bladensburg were fun and that he was determined to continue to have fun on his last day as a high school student.

"It's my last day so I have to have fun with it," Black said. "It was all worth it because you can't get any good jobs without a diploma."

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