Retirement? Backward approach advised for Sussex Central grads moving forward



Sussex Central High School Class of 2016 graduates wing their caps at the conclusion of Wednesday’s commencement. From left, Thorn Lowe, Noelle Lumb and Richelle Lynch.

GEORGETOWN – The 318 seniors in Sussex Central High School’s Class of 2016 had not yet received diplomas Wednesday night and already there was talk about retirement.

Indeed, a backward approach from the future were words of wisdom from Delaware National Guard Brigadier General Michael Berry, keynote speaker at the June 1 commencement.

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Brooks Belle, left, Sussex Central’s class president, has a stage seat next to guest speaker Delaware National Guard Brigadier General Michael Berry.

“One of the most important pieces of advice I can offer is to sit down with a trusted mentor and develop a plan based on the backward planning model,” said Brig. Gen. Berry. “In your case I would start at your desired retirement age and work back in 10-year increments. I know it is kind of strange to talk about retirement when you have not been presented your diplomas yet. However now is the time to begin the process.”

‘When developing a plan be true to your individual abilities, talents and interests. Be realistic and be practical,” said Brig. Gen. Berry. “Some talents and interests will pay off financially. Some will not pay off at all. You have to find a balance.”

Stands in the athletic stadium were filled to the gills while scores of parents, family members and friends lined the surrounding fences to witness Sussex Central’s 47th commencement exercise.

“Class of 2016, you have left an indelible mark on Sussex Central and you have become part of her history,” said Sussex Central High School Principal Dr. Bradley Layfield. “My sincere hope is that Sussex Central has left each of you with the essential tools for success and many happy memories to look back upon wherever your path may lead.”

Dr. Susan Bunting, superintendent of the Indian River School District, labeled the Class of 2016 a “very special one” for Sussex Central.

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Sussex Central graduate Bryce Molnar is congratulated by SCHS Principal Dr. Bradley Layfield.

“Each of you have a life that is like an empty canvass. That life is just waiting for you to put the first brush stroke,” said Dr. Bunting, adding her hope is that graduates will use all that they gained at Sussex Central to “make it a masterpiece.”

In 1967 there was an award-winning movie, The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft.

Class of 2016 valedictorian Miranda Arnold cast movie likeness to the Class of 2016’s journey to graduation.

“Today we graduate. This has been four, 12, 18 years coming. And in just an hour or two it will be gone,” said Miranda. “I am not going to tell you that this is the beginning because it’s not. The end of a movie is still the end even when there is a sequel. We face an ending.”

“Right now the credits are rolling and programs everyone holds in their hands is the cast. Our teachers, our parents, our friends they are crews that hold it all together. All of us are facing an ending,” said Miranda, who will attend Cornell University. ‘We’ll remember high school like a movie. All of the important prop points and characters will stick with us. A lot of this will fade away to be replaced with more important, hopefully better things.”

Jamilah “Jamie” Jimenez, the class salutatorian, focused on family, friends and her high school experience at Sussex Central. She was in Academic Challenge, International Baccalaureate and marching band.

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From left, Sussex Central Class of 2016 valedictorian Miranda Arnold, salutatorian Jamilah Jimenez, class vice president Jacob Swift and class secretary Eneicia Wescott join in the National Anthem.

“The programs and my teachers have taught me organization and time management as well as a variety of other important skills. Because of them I definitely feel ready for what college has to throw at me,” said Jamilah, who will attend West Virginia University. “Around the end of my freshman year I finally realized a very important life function. You don’t need to have a lot of friends. You need to find the right people who care about you and bring out the best in you. I am so thankful for the support I have gotten from my circle of friends and I am very proud of all of you.”

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Shelby West receives her diploma from Jim Hudson, president of the Indian River School District board of education.

Jamilah tendered sincere thanks to her parents and godfather for instilling in her that education comes first.

“They have always been there for me and have pushed me to try my hardest. They have gone out of their way to ensure that I have the best education possible,” said Jamilah.

“Marching band has been part of my life for the past four years. I made some great friends and will most definitely miss the Friday Night Lights. The student section at Central has a great deal of school spirit. There is nothing like it. I’ll miss the spirit week, homecoming dances, prom and home sports games,” Jamilah added. “I remember my first day at Central. It’s a big school and of course as a freshman I had no idea how to get around. Everyone was taller than me and I was too timid to ask how to get to a class. Now looking back, I am able to see how I have changed during my four years at Sussex Central. I am not really timid anymore and I have come out of my shell. But, everyone is still taller than me and I don’t that is ever going to change. I can honestly say that Sussex Central high school will hold a special place in my heart.”

Class president Brooks Belle said it is “funny, from the start we have known that this day was going to be here. But even now that it is it is just a little bit overwhelming. It’s been a crazy ride. We’ve made and lost friends, had good and bad memories here. We’ve gone through a lot. But it’s not over yet. There’s still a long road ahead of us. But it is time to go out on our own.”

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Best friends Maricela Lemus, left and Albina Hernandez were among the 318 Sussex Central seniors who received diplomas at Wednesday’s graduation.

“The world ahead of us is pretty scary,” Brooks said. “But it is what we have been preparing for. It is what we have matured for, what we have grown up for. So I say we go out there. … show the world who we have grown into, show them who we’ve become. Who knows what is going to happen after this. Who knows what is going to change. One thing I do know: Come with me. I am ready to move on. I am ready to finally start my own life. What about the rest of you? How do you guys feel?”

Miranda said she did not wish to tiptoe through the minefield of graduation clichés but did offer one.

“If the clichés got one thing right and I hate to say this probably as much as you hate to hear it, ‘we are moving forward,’” she said.

Brig, Gen. Berry saluted the nearly five percent of this year’s class that have chosen military service. He also recognized the faculty and staff.

“My family has been a part of the Golden Knight community for over 25 years. During those 25 years I have grown to recognize and appreciate the strong sense of community pride, the dedication to academics to the arts, to athletics and to the various school organizations,” said Brig. Gen. Berry, who chaperoned field trips, homecoming dances and prom. “And whenever I attended these events some of the most evident characteristics I witnessed were the dedication and devotion demonstrated by the staff and faculty of our school. From the moment each of our graduates became a part of the Sussex Central family, whether in elementary, middle school or the high school, our students have been taught and mentored by an extremely talented pool of professionals who have upheld the highest tradition of education excellence. Our staff and faculty have accepted the challenges presented by the school board, the district and the state and ensured our students met the standards and are well prepared for the future outside of the castle.”

SCHS lane and charlie Megginson

Sussex Central graduate Charlie Megginson IV shares a parting moment with Kathleen Lane, senior class adviser. Ms. Lane is retiring after this school year.

Brig. Gen. Berry also recognized students’ respect, self-respect and respect for each other. “For this attribute I commend the parents and families. We are fortunate to all reside in the greater Sussex Central community, a community that revolves around our children and our schools,” he said.

Brig. Gen. Berry, who doubles as a deputy troop commander at Delaware State Police Troop 4, encouraged graduates to map out a plan.

“My goal today is not to increase your apprehension, but to guide you to embrace the opportunities before and encourage you to establish your plan, one that works for you and will bring you personal happiness and professional satisfaction,” he said. “If and when things get rough, reach back, find the resolve that brought you to this day and you will find what you need to move forward.”

Class of 2016 gift

Class vice president Jacob Swift and secretary Eneicia Wescott presented the class gift: Leyland cypress trees to enhance the beauty of the natural landscape of the SCHS campus.

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Sussex Central senior Beycker Perez is undoubtedly excited about graduation.

“These trees will serve as a treasured reminder of our times at Sussex Central,” Jacob said.

By the numbers

Approximately 80 percent of this year’s graduates plan on attending a two-year or four-year college or trade school, Dr. Layfield said.

Another 15 percent plan to immediately enter the workforce. Nearly five percent have chosen the military.

“One true key to happiness that you’ll have the rest of your lives; find a way to serve others,” said Dr. Layfield. “You have made us proud to this point. Now go make us proud from here.”

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Armed with balloons, Mario Ramirez shows his support for his son, Sussex Central graduate Anthony Ramirez. Anthony will continue his education at Delaware Technical Community College.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at

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