Millions of high school students are done. So done.

In flowing gowns and square caps, more than 3 million will walk across a stage this month and be handed a diploma, what they’ve been working toward for 12 years.

Latavea Cole, a graduating senior at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Baltimore, Maryland, wore a black cap decorated with yellow feathers and words that glittered.

“Mine says ‘Black girl magic,’” Cole told VOA. “It’s an inspirational thing, and graduating is really just … magic.”

Personalized caps

Many students personalize their caps with inspirational quotes, feathers and glitter to stand out in a sea of other graduates for family and friends in the grandstands. Some just want to celebrate their hard-won achievement that culminates in filing into a gymnasium and walking across a stage to receive their diplomas.

At Dunbar, the high school attended by the late rap artist Tupac Shakur, nearly 200 graduates filed in one by one as the school band played “Pomp and Circumstance,” the traditional music of graduations throughout America.

Over half of the caps were vividly decorated, with rhinestones that reflected the gymnasium’s light, and fake flowers mirroring real ones gifted to the graduates by their families.

On to college

Cole said she will pursue a degree in special education at a nearby community college after leaving Dunbar, which specializes in preparing students for careers in health care.

“Dunbar high school is a high school for professional health careers, and it gets you ready for college and the next level,” Kelvin Williams, a fellow graduating senior, told VOA.

Williams will move to North Carolina in the fall to major in sports medicine with plans to become a doctor to “help athletes.”

“The entire group is just dynamic, boisterous. They’re looking at wonderful things in their future,” said Tameka Taylor, an English teacher at Dunbar.

“They’re going to colleges in Arizona, Kansas, all over the state of Maryland, with over $500,000 to $1 million in scholarships. So, we are just excited, and we can’t wait to usher them out into the world,” Taylor said.

Before and after the ceremony, many students pondered their four-year journey through high school.

“I had a great experience. It was fun. There were some serious times, but mostly fun. I wouldn’t pick a different school,” Cole said.

“It’s been hard, but it’s been great,” her classmate Carl Kuniken added.

“Mine says I’m a draguate’,” said Jahi Chatman, turning around to show the camera his decorated cap. He will be headed to military basic training in the fall.

“I dragged my way through high school, so I’m a draguate!”

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