On Tuesday, May 20, 564 students from the Class of 2014 graduated from Seminole Ridge High School in a ceremony at the South Florida Fairgrounds Expo Center.
Lines wrapped around the building at 7:30 a.m. before the crowd began surrendering their tickets at the door to find a seat for the 8 a.m. ceremony. The constant stream of parents, family and friends filing through the doors carried a feeling of excitement, pride and celebration.
“Pomp and Circumstance” played by the band greeted students as they descended into the room and to their seats, in a wave of young men clad in silver graduation garb and young women in red. The Army JROTC captivated the crowd with its Presentation of Colors before attendees said the Pledge of Allegiance.
On stage, Principal James Campbell was joined by Superintendent E. Wayne Gent, Area Superintendent Dr. Matthew Shoemaker and class faculty sponsors Tamara Licavoli and Kay Matthews, as well as other Palm Beach County School District officials.
Gent addressed the audience, announcing that the Palm Beach County School District will be graduating more than 11,500 seniors this year, who have earned more than $110 million in scholarships. The graduates will be attending the top colleges and universities across the country.
“We’re all individuals, and that’s really a remarkable thing,” Gent proclaimed. “We’re all unique, and although we share this moment and this graduation, graduates are like a box of fireworks, about to be ignited.”
He encouraged the new graduates to explore their own paths.
“Only you will be able to decide how you will light up the sky, and only you will be able to decide what you’re going to become,” Gent said. “The wonderful thing is that you have choices. The possibilities are endless, and that possibility is the real thing that we are celebrating here today.”
After Gent told the students to “light up the sky,” the sound system played part of Katy Perry’s song “Firework.”
Senior Class President Janae Moodie opened her speech with lyrics from Drake’s song “Started from the Bottom.”
Moodie described the challenges the students overcame, such as trying not to fall on the stairs, figuring out the even and odd day schedule, and learning the ropes of the school, before reminding the students that they not only overcame those initial challenges, they crushed them.
“Today, while we still maintain much of the innocence of the earlier years, we are bolstered by the knowledge that we have gained in this all-embracing institution of learning, Seminole Ridge High School,” Moodie said. “We will be wounded many times of our lives, but we have been equipped with the knowledge to reconfigure our wounds into wisdom.”
Salutatorian Erica Hylton offered advice to the students for when they find their passion.
“One: do not be afraid to fail. We have all failed before, and we will likely fail again, but what matters is the success that we have in this moment. Two: go out and try something new. The world is much larger than Loxahatchee would have us believe. There are so many places to travel, books to read and adventures to find. Three: lean on your friends and let them lean on you. No matter where you go, you will never be alone,” Hylton said.
Valedictorian Olivia Meingasner focused on how the students started as strangers and are leaving as Hawks. They are a family now.
“Now is the time that we grow up and take on more responsibility than we ever had before,” she said. “We set out into the real world and see how the past 18 years of our lives have shaped us. I wish each and every one of you the best of luck in your new beginning, wherever it may be.”
Campbell said that “leadership” is the term dominating his thoughts when reflecting on the Class of 2014.
“This year’s graduating class has some truly outstanding leaders,” he said “This group has been leading since the first day I arrived on campus three years ago… Students in this class were continuously leading their peers.”
During the presentation ceremony, there were cheers, hoots, hollers and clapping as students, faculty, family and friends cheered on graduates walking across the stage.
Once all of the students crossed the stage, Moodie instructed her fellow graduates to move their tassels from the right side of the cap to the left.
After the ceremony, students returned their gowns, keeping their caps, and then picked up their diplomas. Reuniting with family and friends, the new high school graduates met with friends and posed for pictures that will create lasting memories.
For those unable to attend, video of the ceremony is available at www.palmbeachschools.org.