STEM Valedictorian Sohum Anil Shah

St. Mary’s City, MD — The “unstoppable” Great Mills High School Class of 2015 graduated May 29 at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. That’s how Interim Superintendent Scott Smith described Great Mills’ 86th graduating class during remarks at the commencement. The graduating class totaled 388.

Great Mills is St. Mary’s County’s oldest high school, having opened in 1929. Things changed dramatically for the school with the opening of the Patuxent River Naval Air Station a few miles away in 1943. Principal Jake Heibel said the school serves a “rich and diverse community” with a world and cultured view.

During his introduction of guests Heibel asked those who were entering the military to stand and those in the audience who are or have been in the military to also stand to show the schools deep roots with the military.

Heibel noted that Class of 2015 students had received $19 million in scholarships, the highest amount ever.

Heibel told the seniors when they wake up every morning they will be either be like a lion or a gazelle. Either way, he said, they have to hit the ground running. If not, he said, gazelles get eaten and lions end up starving. “When the sun comes up you had better be running,” he advised.

“Things won’t be easy but how you respond defines you as a person,” the principal said.

Heibel also told the seniors that eagles know when a storm is coming and they let the wind lift them above it. He told the class to rise above the storm. “Don’t be afraid to try and fail because failure is not permanent if you learn from mistakes,” he said

Class co-valedictorians were Kelon James Funyak and Robert Victor Romano. Stem Valedictorian was Sohum Anil Shah. Salutatorian was Tatiana Gabriela Santiago and Stem Salutatorian was Mina Fahmi Fahmi. Shah spoke for the class at the commencement exercise.

In Shah’s short address he challenged his classmates: “Now is our time to make a difference and change the world.”

In his remarks Smith, who becomes permanent superintendent July 1, said after talking to school leaders earlier in the week, he concluded, “You know the strength of diversity and the unstoppable force of unity.”

The traditional Pomp and Circumstance entrance processional was performed by the Great Mills High School Band conducted by Robert Mattera. The Chorus directed by Sara Nelson performed the National Anthem and the Alma Mater. The band also performed a musical selection entitled “Abram’s Pursuit.”

Pledge of Allegiance was led by Robert Romano. Academic honors were announced by Mina Fahmi. And Smith was introduced by Kelon Funyak.

Diplomas were conferred by Heibel, Smith and the members of the school board.

Graduation confirmation was announced by Heibel and Lauryn Nutter of the Class of 2015.

Contact Dick Myers at

Please enjoy the Photo Galley of the graduation by Cheron Cooper.