SEBASTIAN – Thousands of friends, family and supporters poured into the Sebastian River High School’s stadium Saturday evening, not sure if they would get to see their favorite students graduate.
They needn’t worry for too long. The commencement ceremony for the Class of 2010 got started with just a 10-minute rain delay. A little more than an hour later, the 447 students from the 15th graduating class of Sebastian River High excitedly tossed their caps in the air – but too soon.
“Hold on,” said Principal Daniel Gilbertson. “We’re not done yet!”
The preemptive celebration drew laughter from the audience as they began to make their way out of the stands and toward the gates to the field to congratulate their graduates.
“Life isn’t a walk on the beach,” Class President Cha’Tonia Boles told her fellow students as the commencement ceremony got underway. She urged her classmates to never take their eyes of their goals and to rise to their dreams.
Salutatorian Tony Spagnolia, who will be attending University of Florida in the fall to study electrical engineering, told the graduates that they have endured a lot to get where they are today.
“You are the class that has fought every obstacle,” he said – new principal, hurricanes, war, you name it.
The class’s motto, by default, became “We will never back down,” Spagnolia said.
Spagnolia was followed by the Class Valedictorian, Yale-bound Natalie Wolff, who plans to study cognitive science and become a neurologist.
She agreed with Spagnolia that theirs is the class that overcame – not just what Spagnolia said, but also of their collective identity crisis.
“We didn’t know what to call ourselves,” Wolff recalled of their first pep rally as freshmen.
The other classes called out “2007” and “2008” and “2009” – but what about 2010? Is it “20-10” or “1-0” or “0-10?”
“That didn’t sound right,” she said.
Wolff told her fellow classmates that they need to remember this day – and how it feels today.
“Today, the world is awesome,” Wolff said.
Principal Gilbertson bragged on the graduating class before handing out the diplomas, telling the nearly 6,000 or so who had gathered that 39 students in the Class of 2010 had earned International Baccalaureate diplomas and performed a combined 6,000 hours of community service – the entire Class of 2010 performed more than 13,200 hours.
Other accolades bestowed upon the class included 103 students who graduated with honors – a grand point average of at least 3.0; 42 as members of the National Honors Society, 5 with an Associate’s Degree from Indian River State College, and commitments to receive more than $1.5 million in scholarships over the next four years.
“The level of achievement” of this Class of 2010 “is quite impressive,” Principal Gilbertson said, drawing cheers from the crowd. “You are prepared to succeed.”
After calling each student individually to receive his or her diploma, it was time for the turning of the tassels.
“I know you’re ready to leave,” School Board Chair Karen Disney-Brombach said. “So I’ll say one last thing – you can’t hide that shark pride!”