SEBRING — David Bloom had to get to the Highlands Today Center pretty early in the morning to grab the first row aisle seat. But there he was, camcorder mounted on a tripod, ready for Stephanie Slade to walk in.
So what will he miss the most about his daughter’s high school years?
“Do you really want me to go there?” he asked, but he was unashamed to make it obvious. “Her personality, and just being around the house. I’m just not ready to give her up.”
Graduation is bittersweet, Maria Stevens agreed. Her twins, the last of her four children, accepted diplomas Saturday morning from Sebring High School. Andrew Alberto Estima graduated cum laude, meaning his GPA was from 4.0 to 4.3199. He has a scholarship from Stetson University to study ethnomusicology, the performance of historical and cultural music.
Mathew Antonio Estima will begin his college career at SFSC, and then continue higher education in search of a computer science degree.
“I really don’t want them to graduate,” Stevens said, an admission any parent could understand, “but I’m happy for them.”
Backstage, Nicole Marie Darder watched her classmates. Her career is mapped out: two years at SFSC, two years at University of Florida.
“They have one of the best journalism schools in the country,” said Nicole, who wore a bronze cord over her gown to signify cum laude, a blue National Honor Society sash, a Mu Alpha Theta pin for mathematics and a choir pin.
She wants to write for a newspaper or magazine. “I want to travel the world and explore,” she said.
Across the room, Elizabeth DeVere Staley answered the “what’s next?” question with, “I’ll be hungry. I’ll go where ever my mom takes me. She’s going to pay for lunch.” But in the fall, she’ll study math at SFSC and maybe the University of Central Florida.
Not because she was good at it in high school. “I know how I struggled with it, and I just want to help others get through it,” Libby said.
SFSC is the next stop for most graduates. Regino Jesus Cisneros-Perez will take a one-year course in auto mechanics, and his friend Cristian Ramiro Tellez will take prerequisites for engineering studies.
“Elementary education,” Nykeadra Merriweather said, and than added with irony, “I like teaching little children better than the older children.”
“Cori,” Ilene Eshelman had to shout to be heard. “Hat has to be flat.” High school is over, but this is a final day of regimentation. Mortarboards cannot be cocked to the left or right, the assistant principal explained. She continued to check the list. Students line up in order: honor grads first, everyone else in alphabetical order.
“We practiced yesterday, so everyone is pretty much in their place,” said Eshelman, who has been herding graduates since 1992.
Stephanie Slade and Alexis Cresong will miss high school. “Just talking to friends and hanging out with them,” Stephanie said. Alexis will miss her best friend, Skye, but like Nykeadra she’s looking forward to elementary education. She volunteered to mentor the little kids, and she saw that light in their eyes when she talked to them.
A photographer walked by, which was Caleb Issac Cribbs’ cue to throw his arms around six girls. “He’s like our oldest brother,” said Sara Marie Thompson. They’ve all stood in line together for six years, for lunch or roll call or whatever function the school demanded.
“He lives by me,” said Taylor Jo Sofo, “and he always comes over without asking.”
Today is the time for closing books, long last looks and leaving best friends for Cribbs, who joined the Army in October and will report to boot camp Aug. 11.
Too soon, 9 a.m. came. “Pomp and Circumstance” didn’t play on cue, but cheers filled the air as the first blue and white robes entered the auditorium.
“We celebrate you today, our graduates,” said Principal Anne Lindsay.
“Remember the first day of high school?” asked Kelby Mahoney, first of the student speakers, and then she mock chanted: “Freshmen go home. Freshmen go home.”
In quick succession, Superintendent Wally Cox passed out the two Bailey Medals to Sarah Elizabeth Rogers and Jacob Daniel Livingston, School Board Member Jan Shoop announced the School Board Citizenship Awards went to Micaela Morgan DeVane and Jared Alexander Lang and Nisha Patel began the class history by handing scholarships to Allen Abe Jr. and Kelby Ashton Mahoney.
And then the first row stood up, and the first diplomas went to Scout Layne Royce and Lang and 230 more graduates, and high school was over.
Bryanna Nicole Weed won a car from Alan Jay Automotive Network.