Some members of the Class of 2005 graduated cum laude.

Others finished summa cum laude.

And some graduated with simply an "Oh, lordy, I'm glad I made it," Howard County School Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin said jokingly during the commencement for Oakland Mills High School.

Amid cheers and applause -- and the occasional celebratory honk of a bullhorn -- more than 5,300 county seniors walked across the stage of Merriweather Post Pavilion last week to receive their diplomas. They came from each of the county's 11 high schools, with Reservoir graduating its first class since it opened in 2002.

Oakland Mills' ceremony June 1 opened with a greeting in Spanish by senior Diego Tudela, a nod to the county's increasingly diverse student population. His message resonated across racial and ethnic lines.

"Welcome to what is one of the most important days of our young lives," Tudela told the crowd. "Welcome to the 2005 commencement."

Members of this year's senior class have endured landmark struggles. They grew up quickly their freshman year because of terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. A year later, when snipers roamed the Washington area, they learned the meaning of "lockdown." Those experiences have colored their perspectives on the world, some said.

"The past four years have bestowed a little wisdom on each of us," Oakland Mills senior Victoria Brown said.

Life after high school, whether in college or the workforce, will bring the Class of 2005 new challenges. And for those, Cousin had parting advice.

"Not much good comes after midnight," he told students. "Come home early, and stay out of trouble."

-- YLAN Q. MUI

Seniors Stephanie Ducey and Dienelle Esmolo, center right, chat during Long Reach's graduation at Merriweather Post Pavilion, where more than 5,300 county seniors had their commencement last week.Oakland Mills senior Evan Hartranft listens to classmate Victoria H. Brown's commencement speech. Wearing a cap he personalized with a movie line, Oakland Mills senior David Adam Justice Ostrander, above, lines up with classmates for commencement at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Wilde Lake seniors Gilliam Horn and Rebecca Friedman, far right, dance to "I Was Meant for the Stage."Seniors, above, march into Merriweather Post Pavilion as Oakland Mills' commencement program begins June 1. At top left, Jocelyn Sprague, center, adjusts the tassels on the mortarboard of fellow senior Emily Smith as they prepare for a class photo in the Reservoir gymnasium. At bottom left, a playful Steven Butler, right, heads to Long Reach's graduation. Senior Alexander Brown, below, adds a musical touch to Wilde Lake's graduation June 1 before joining his classmates.Terence Smith of Laurel videotapes his son, Terence, as he comes into Merriweather Post Pavilion during Long Reach's graduation May 31.