Rather than go the standard route of a ceremony at James Brown Arena, Harlem chose to have its commencement on its football field, the first at the school since 1982 and the first at its current location.
“It was wonderful, I’m so glad they did it out here,” said salutatorian Madeline Shepherd. “It represents our small Harlem community.”
Tabitha Osborne, the senior class secretary who helped the other class officers push through the outdoor graduation, echoed the sentiment.
“It feels more like home here,” Osborne said. “James Brown Arena feels rushed.”
The 173 graduates took the field in front of a standing-room-only crowd at 7 p.m. with a sun beaming down. When the last name was read a little over an hour later, the sun was dropping below the treeline with a full moon taking its place.
Speeches from class president Hannah Price, Shepherd and valedictorian Sean Spurlin ranged from insightful to witty to self-deprecating, but all touching on a central theme of looking forward to the future.
“We share one thing in common, we are here today reminiscing on our great times together and enthusiastically looking forward to moving on to something,” Spurlin said.
In his last round of graduations after 24 years in the county school system, Superintendent Charles Nagle imparted wisdom one last time.
“My advice to you is to make a plan and set you your goals,” Nagle said. “Today is the first day of your future.”