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ESPN Sports Analysts, US Senators, and Award-winning Novelists to Address MCPS Seniors

More than thirty speakers will deliver keynote addresses at graduation ceremonies for over 10,000 MCPS seniors. These graduation ceremonies take place from May 22nd to June 11th .

Many of guest speakers feature students, staff, and alumni of the school. Science teacher Gregg Gochnour spoke at Rockville High School’s graduation. Tim Kurkjian, an ESPN analyst, spoke at Quince Orchard, while FiscalNote founder Timothy Hwang spoke at Wootton.

Dick Durbin, a U.S. Senator for Illinois, spoke at B-CC, and James Etheridge, the school security team leader, spoke at Poolesville’s graduation. Paint branch had teacher and football coach Charles Smith II.

Greg Wagner, an athlete currently training for the 2016 US Paralympics, spoke at Damascus. “I have spent my entire life overcoming expectations that people made on my life because of my disability. My determination stems from refusing to settle for anything in life. Everyone deserves to feel like they are capable of doing anything in life. That’s helped me overcome many obstacles since high school, and there was no honor greater than being asked to come back to DHS as the keynote speaker to share what I’ve learned to seniors who are where I was not so long ago,” he explained.

Clarksburg’s graduation featured James Koutsos, former principal and the current president of the county’s Association of Administrators and Principals. “My message centered around the importance of a healthy mind, a healthy heart, and a healthy soul.  I used three clichés and tied them to my theme.  The clichés were:  People in glass houses should not throw stones (Mind), When the going gets tough, the tough get going (Heart), and laughter is the best medicine (Soul),” Koutsos said.

Mark William Bryan, who’s the lead guitarist for the band Hootie & the Blowfish, spoke at Seneca Valley, and Michael Williams, a Fulbright scholar and former social studies teacher, spoke at Walter Johnson. Gary Frace, a former law teacher, spoke at Springbrook’s graduation, and musician and author Mary Amato delivered a speech at Sherwood.

“I was honored to be invited to speak,” Amato explained. Part of the reason she decided to speak was to pass down advice to the students. “Since I am an author of fiction, I decided to use the metaphor of story—writing as the basis for my speech. You are the author of your own story. When you graduate, there is a lot of talk about your future; however your future isn’t something that happens to you. You make your future with every action. I think it’s important to mark rituals, such as graduations, and feel a responsibility to contribute.”

Magruder will feature XAPPmedia vice president Paul Burden, while actress Kelen Coleman will speak at Churchill.

George Pelecanos, a bestselling crime novelist who’s also worked as a writer and producer for HBO’s The Wire, will speak at Blair, and Maryland Senator Ben Cardin will speak at Whitman.

Joette James, clinical neuropsychologist and assistant professor at George Washington University, will speak at Rock Terrace. “I was inspired by the amazing accomplishments of the Rock Terrace students—their determination to complete their studies combined with the support and dedication of the staff. They are an inspiration to people with developmental disabilities and their capacity for success!” she said.

Sports Illustrated writer Robert Klemko will speak at Blake, and special education teachers Tara Johnson and Adriana Friedman will speak at Longview School.

Stephen Knolls will feature Philip Lynch, supervisor of the county’s special education services. County Council member Craig Rice will speak at Model Learning Center, while UMBC president Freeman Hrabowski III will speak at Gaithersburg.

Kennedy’s graduation features DeRionne Pollard, Montgomery College president, and Wheaton will have director of White House personnel Jennifer Fay.

PE Teacher Jody Tyler will speak at Watkins Mill, and social studies teacher Joseph Vukovich will speak at Northwest.

Northwood and Einstein will both feature student speakers.

In addition to guest speakers, many schools have graduating seniors speak as well. “Knowing my classmates for almost four years, I am quite curious at how much they have grown,” noted Richard Montgomery senior Eden Zheng.

Most graduations happen at DAR Constitution Hall, while some are at high schools or Mt. St. Mary’s University.

About The MoCo Student

In 2012, Student Member of the Board of Education John Mannes created a countywide press network to help build a conduit to share fresh and relevant information written by youth to the wider Montgomery County student body.

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