Chapticon H.S. Principal Garth Bowling rings the cowbell at the end of the graduation ceremony

St. Mary’s City, MD — Chopticon High School’s Class of 2015 will always be remembered as the one that graduated during the school’s 50th anniversary. It was a class that accomplished much, including the state baseball championship during the final week. Other accomplishments were enumerated by speakers during the 50th commencement May 27 at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

Principal Garth Bowling pointed out that pictures of the 50 graduating classes line the wall on one side of the entrance hallway and the next 50 years will begin to fill the opposite wall. He wondered out loud, “What will happen in the next 50 years.”

Will someone googling (If there is a Google or even an internet as we know it) “Chopticon High School Class of 2015” 50 years from now get an entry for “ladybugs?” Will the class forever be remembered as the one with the senior prank of depositing 72,000 ladybugs within the school, creating a massive cleanup effort and leading to the arrest of four boys, with the charging of three adults pending. A door was damaged in the process of the early morning entry into the school.

All of those who participated in the prank were allowed to graduate with the class of 393 seniors, with the exception of one student, Brian Reminga, who was not allowed to attend the graduation ceremony. He complained about that to the school board the night before, “One student has been punished for what happened. His family came from 3,000 miles and he can’t walk in this graduation,” he said, referring to himself.

But with school officials wanting to put the incident that received international attention behind them the word “ladybug” was never uttered during the graduation ceremony.

Bowling noted that 50 years ago Chopticon, an Indian word meaning “place where the water is deep,” was created with the consolidation of three smaller high schools. Leonardtown and Margaret Brent were all white and Benjamin Banneker was all African-American. The consolidation provided a modern school and also accomplished the integration of the school system.

“Chopticon became a place where all students could learn and socialize together,” Bowling said.

Speakers at the commencement talked from a podium in the center of the stage. But two podiums were placed to the right and left of that. Bowling told the audience that one of them was from Benjamin Banneker High School, circa 1962 and the other from 1957 from Margaret Brent that had been given to that graduating class by the Class of 1932.

Co-valedictorian, Tiffany Marie Thompson, pointed out that her class had received 99 scholarships netting $7.9 million, and that 75 percent of the class will go on to college, with the rest going into the military or the workforce. She said many of the graduates will be furthering their education in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields.

Thompson thanked her parents for giving her the opportunity to succeed to the point of becoming a valedictorian. “All of those years of me not having a job paid off,” she quipped.

“Realize that we will be playing a key role in making a difference in the world,” Thompson told her classmates.  She added that everyone has a dream and those dreams if pursued will be what changes the world. “No one succeeds without having dreams and working hard to achieve them,” she said.

Thompson concluded her talk by urging the Class of 2015 to pursue a healthy balance of work and fun. “Stop and smell the roses,” she urged.

Co-valedictorian Blake Hill Buckler said, “This year’s class perfectly embodies what Chopticon has stood for for 50 years.” He said that not only included academics and athletics but also “service to the community.”

Buckler said that “friendship” was the uniting factor of the Class of 2015. He said, “ Life is not always fair and many will be faced with major difficulties,” But he said that the bonds forged at Chopticon will allow his classmates to overcome the difficulties and succeed.

Class of 2015 Salutatorian Patrick William Capps thanked his parents, who recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. He said those that knew him knew he wasn’t excited to have to write a speech, but the result, that included a recitation of world events that have occurred since his class entered school, including that state baseball championship, was well-received.

During the commencement, Chopticon’s 50th anniversary was remembered with presentations of certificates from Senator Steve Waugh, Delegates Matt Morgan and Deb Rey, and Commissioner President Randy Guy, with Commissioner John O’Connor and Todd Morgan by his side.

Chopticon over the years had been tagged as “Cowpie High” by competing high schools because of its location surrounded by farm fields. Originally a term of derision, the school embraced it as a term of endearment. Every year at the commencement the new graduates ring cowbells at the end of the ceremony. Bowling led the cowbell cacophony this year.

The traditional Pomp and Circumstance entrance was performed by the Concert Band led by Todd Burroughs, which has garnered numerous awards over the years. The Class of 2015 Choral Singers directed by Sarah Lorek, performed Phil Collins’ “On My Way.” And the Peace Piers and Concert Band performed the school Alma Mater after an introduction by Class President Hunter McFalls..

This year was Scott Smith’s first round of graduations, now as interim superintendent but on July 1 becoming the permanent superintendent, replacing Dr. Michael Martirano. The difference between last year and this year was dramatic. Martirano liked to give long remarks. Smith described his remarks “short and sweet.” He said he spoke before hand to some of the graduates and he said the common thread was the character of the Class of 2015.

“You are all the real thing, full of character, reputation and potential,” he told the graduating class.

The Bay Net Editor Marty Madden contributed to this story.

Contact Dick Myers at dick.myers@thebaynet.com

Please enjoy the photos from the graduation by the Bay Net’s Mike Wilson