Seminole Ridge High School graduated 593 seniors during a commencement ceremony at the South Florida Fairgrounds Expo Center on Monday, May 21.
Principal James Campbell credited students for their support in assisting the school during a stressful year.
“As I think back through this year, the real lessons that took place were not in the classroom,” he said. “Our school year began with the challenge of Hurricane Irma. Less than a month into school, we closed so our communities could prepare for the storm. After the storm cleanup began, some of you helped keep the campus open so we could serve as a shelter for more than 2,000 people. After missing seven days of school, we welcomed students back to campus. Over the next few days, I heard numerous positive stories of our students before, during and after Irma. Many of you learned the value of helping others through difficult times.”
Senior Class President Carsyn Bates, the daughter of John and Kim Bates, reflected on the graduating seniors’ high school experience. “Throughout the last four years, we have grown so much, both physically and mentally,” she said. “Now we look at those Facebook memories, and we know the glow is real.”
Bates thanked her parents and other mentors for pushing her to be the best she could be.
“I am thankful for the qualities you have instilled in me,” she said. “In addition to my parents, I have been surrounded by mentors who not only taught us lessons to be learned in the classroom, but in life. Sometimes it may be years before you realize what each had to show you.”
She also thanked Campbell and his staff for providing a safe and productive atmosphere every day at school. “Seminole Ridge is both an inclusive and receptive school in which anyone can find a place to fit in,” said Bates, who has a Bright Futures scholarship to attend Florida State University.
Salutatorian Isabel Rivera, the daughter of Jose Rivera and Waleska Santiago, urged her classmates not to be hampered by what they feel are limits on their abilities.
“Failure is paramount to learning,” Rivera said. “Never be afraid of firsts. Without them, we would still be using sticks and stones, or computers the size of classrooms.”
She thanked teachers, mentors and caregivers for their support and guidance along the way.
“There have been people who have inspired you, guided you and sacrificed everything for you to be here today,” Rivera said. “I ask you to thank each and every one of them.”
She thanked her brother for being her “personal Uber” and her sister for “never letting me forget my faults.”
“I have a lifelong family to love,” Rivera said. “I thank my mom and dad for 18 years of ups and downs. Every day you encouraged me to seek the unattainable, to never settle. Without you, I would not be standing here today.”
She also thanked her teachers, particularly her math teacher, who kept her attention when equations came to have more letters than numbers, and her philosophy teacher, who taught her supply and demand.
“Soon we will all follow our different paths in life, joining the work force, serving in the military or continuing our education, but in the end, you are here today graduating because you have a little bit of, ‘I want to see the world,’” Rivera said. “The future holds an infinite number of moments and possible outcomes. It is up to you to live the future you want to live. Follow your passions, stay true to yourself and never follow someone else’s path unless you’re in the woods, you’re lost and you see a path. By all means, you should follow that. Congratulations to the Class of 2018. We did it.”
Rivera will study biomedical engineering at the University of Florida to pursue a career in pediatrics.
Valedictorian Shreya Patel told her classmates that they all have much to be grateful for.
“As many of you know, my religion is an integral part of my life, so today I would first like to thank God and my belief. Without God and my Buddhist guidance, I would not be here,” she said. “Whether it is something as simple as getting a good grade on a test or something as momentous as this, I believe that anything good that happens in my life is due to the grace of God and my belief.”
Patel said she remembers when still in middle school being driven past Seminole Ridge High School and thinking she would be graduating from there one day.
“Six years felt like an eternity, but the past six years have been so eventful that they passed faster than I could ever have imagined,” she said, and continued that it was a privilege to learn from qualified and hard-working teachers. “There are few teachers who have so much enthusiasm and true love for what they do. I know for sure that if I go on to a college and a career after that I will always remember Mrs. [Elizabeth] Seemann as an inspiration.”
She also credited math teacher Victoria Barrameda for keeping her interested in a difficult subject. “There are no words to describe Mrs. Barrameda,” she said. “From her hilarious math jokes to her stories, she always kept us entertained and enthused to attend class despite a subject like calculus.”
Patel credited her parents and grandmother for nurturing her and keeping her inspired.
“My grandmother is a second mother to me, and the three of them have made many sacrifices for my brother and me,” she said. “Three years ago, my brother stood on this stage and gave a speech as salutatorian. Being the competitive younger sister, I always wanted to match his accomplishments. My parents and grandparents more than supported me in my goals. My mom woke every day at five o’clock to make me lunch, so I would be well fed and able to focus in school. She also drove me to Palm Beach State for three years, so I could take [advanced] classes, and she never made me feel as if that was a burden. The only reason she did it was so that I could fulfill my dreams.”
Patel concluded by giving credit to all teachers and nurturers of the Class of 2018.
“I know the Class of 2018 is destined for success,” she said. “Our experiences, teachers and parents have prepared us for what the future may hold for us. The students of this class are a truly diverse, intelligent and determined group. I wish you all the best, and congratulations. We made it.”
Patel will attend Temple University under a full scholarship to major in actuarial science.