AVON PARK — It was an excited group of seniors - the Avon Park Class of 2014 - at Friday evening’s graduation ceremonies, but the proud parents and relatives certainly didn’t hold back their excitement.
Soon after the opening formalities and the National Anthem, the whooping and shouts started from the audience in the South Florida State College Theatre for the Performing Arts.
“I think this is going to be an exciting group,” Principal Tealy Williams said before he started his welcome and introduction speech.
He noted that this was his third graduation since becoming principal of Avon Park High so he has spent the longest amount of time with this group of students.
“This is a special night,” Williams said. “An opportunity to reflect on what you have learned.”
The seniors faced many challenges, but learned to overcome those challenges, he said. “You have become exceptional young men and women,”
The Class of 2014 has many things to be thankful for including being in a community - Avon Park and Highlands County - where people still believe it takes a village to raise a child, Williams said.
Superintendent Wally Cox thanked the parents for their support.
Cox said he tells every graduating class to follow their dreams, but also encourages them to think about returning to Highlands County one day.
Senior Brooke Marie Jackson offered a recap of the highlights and some funny moments of the Class of 2014 in her Class History speech.
In his Farewell Address, Jovani Hernandez advised his fellow graduates to have courage in the situations that they will face and not to let anyone tell them they can’t do something.
“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition,” he said.
School Board Chairman Ronnie Jackson presented the Senior Honor Students award to Jovani Hernandez.
School Board Member Donna Howerton presented the School Board Citizenship Medal to Caylie Wall and Timothy Finch.
Cox presented the Bailey Medal, for being the most considerate of others, to Ashley Acosta and Charles Council.
Avon Park High had 192 graduates.
The graduates were quick to offer where they are headed next.
Tamara Stokes plans to further her studies at South Florida State College and then transfer to the University of Central Florida. She wants to be a neonatal nurse practitioner.
Tataris plans on going to the University of Florida where she will major in public health.
“I want to end up in medical sales,” she said.
Tataris said she enjoyed playing volley ball in high school.
Elizalde Schings, Jr. said he was going to be a sheriff’s deputy in Highlands County.
He enjoyed the Jr. ROTC program in high school.
The Alan Jay Automotive Network/Witham Chevrolet “Wheels for A’s” program awarded its 55th car to senior Maria Tataris who was one 68 seniors who entered the program with a total of 753 A’s on their report cards. Tataris’ name was randomly drawn from those who entered. She won a red 2013 Chevrolet Spark.