Though it was an early-morning event, spots in the 365-seat theater at Anne Arundel Community College were filling up quickly Wednesday. The upbeat crowd was there to watch 69 high school juniors from nearly every high school in Anne Arundel County receive their Capital-Gazette 2018 High School Outstanding Student Achievers Awards.
The award ceremony was planned for March 7, but a brief snowfall during the morning hours caused postponement of the event until Wednesday. It was the fifth annual awards ceremony sponsored by the news organization and sponsored by a number of groups including the Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce.
Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley addressed the crowd of students, families and faculty with a speech that was humble, funny and uplifting. “I’m a bit out of my element here at this event because, I will be honest, I wasn’t an outstanding high school student. Not by a mile,” Buckley said. “But I know the value of hard work and, to everyone here, you have worked tremendously hard to be here today.”
As a teenager growing up in Australia, he said he would never have dreamed of becoming the mayor of one of the oldest state capitals in America. Nor, even three years ago, would he have said his goal was to achieve that position. “This goes to show you — that no matter what your dreams may be — always be ready to pivot and switch gears and chase a new goal,” Buckley said. He talked about how his original goal of getting a job as a waiter 25 years ago segued into opening a coffee shop, finding and marrying his wife, and opening a series of restaurants and businesses on West Street. In the process, he said, a seedy part of Annapolis known as a red light district is now lit up as the vibrant Arts District. “Don’t listen to people who tell you that your dreams will never succeed. Trust your gut.”
The mayor called the 69 award winners amazing. “You guys are amazing — the academic achievements, the contributions to the community you have made, the achievement in the arts — all amazing and to be applauded. You represent the future of our community and, frankly, I am inspired.”