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James Rada, Jr.

Catoctin High School (CHS) recognized its graduates who have gone on to find success post-high school during its 6th Annual Distinguished Graduates Induction Ceremony in November 2021.

Principal Jennifer Clements told the audience, “Catoctin High School is a place of deep roots and strong traditions. Our history is so rich because of the incredible staff and students who have walked these halls, making a positive impact on our school and our community.”

It is that tradition and those people that the school celebrates with its Distinguished Graduate Program. The Catoctin High School Distinguished Graduate Organization was formed in 2015 to honor alumni in the areas of academics, arts and humanities, athletics, business, and public service.

The 2021 program recognized alumni from the arts and humanities, academics, and public service sectors. It also recognized two former CHS staff members.

Former teacher, John Koepke, taught, coached, and advised students at CHS for 35 years. During the program, he passed on some advice from his father to the students in attendance. “Life is full of cool moments. Enjoy the cool moments.”

He also shared some advice from Dr. Jack Graham, a Texas pastor, and it was to PACE yourself through life. However, Koepke added his own words for the acronym.

Patience helps peace.

Acceptance helps attitude.

Confidence helps commitment.

Embrace encouragement.

Rebecca Chaney, Class of 1982, was the arts and entertainment inductee. She is an author, speaker, and livestock and dairy judging coach. Her twin daughters, Sheridan and Rianna Chaney, who are seniors at CHS introduced their mother.

“You need to remember to dream big,” Cheney told the students. “Never waver from your dream and goals. With hard work and determination, you can achieve incredible things in this life.”

Brian Haines, Class of 2000, was the academics inductee. He is currently an assistant principal scientist at Merck, working in regulatory affairs.

He told the students not to give up on their goals. However, you need to work to make them happen. “Dig in just a little harder and not give up after setting a goal,” Haines said.

Maria Smaldone, Class of 2010, was the public service inductee. Her professional career has been spent in social work, and she is currently the senior neighborhood resource coordinator at Neighborhood Housing Services in Baltimore. Her sister, Raphaela Smaldone, a CHS senior, introduced her.

She said, “My normal is probably not your normal…considering someone’s context (their normal) is critical to understanding their thoughts, their feelings, and their motivations.” She added that this understanding will help bridge “trust gaps” between people of different backgrounds. She urged the students to get to know someone with a different normal and listen to them and learn from them.

She also told students not to, “pigeonhole yourself too soon into what you think you’re good at or what you think is good for you. There are so many other things out there, and you are capable of so many other things than you can give yourself credit for.”

Curtis Howser, a former industrial arts teacher and school counselor for 44 years, was another former CHS staff inductee. He served as a counselor at CHS for 18 years.

He said. “Be part of the solution rather than someone who just talks about it.”

Pictured from left are: (standing) Curtis Howser, John Koepke, and Bryan Haines; (seated) Maria Smaldone and Rebecca Chaney.

Photo by James Rada, Jr.