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Academy of Lakes salutes, sends off first 4 graduates

"Modern-day pioneers'' at the school, which added a ninth grade four years ago, are lauded.

By MICHELLE JONES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 19, 2002

"Modern-day pioneers" at the school, which added a ninth grade four years ago, are lauded.

TAMPA -- Nicole Faulkner told those attending the first graduation of the Academy of the Lakes on Friday night that it was quite a change having Paul Hagenau as a teacher instead of her mother. "I thought he was way out," she said.

Faulkner was homeschooled before attending the academy in Land O'Lakes.

She is one of four graduates who will go on to attend colleges locally or out of state.

The academy will be 10 years old in September. Four years ago ninth grade was added, and Friday the first four graduates had their commencement program at the Wyndham Harbour Island Hotel in Tampa. About 200 people, including relatives, friends and faculty, attended the program. "The students and faculty are modern-day pioneers," said Richard Wendlek, the head of the school, in his welcome address. "We have learned as much from them as they learned from us."

In addition to Faulkner, the other graduates are Jillian Napier, Nadia Naviwala and Steven Stillman. Both Faulkner and Napier are attending the University of Tampa in the fall, while Naviwala will attend Georgetown University, and Steven Stillman will travel to Boston to attend New England College.

Hagenau gave the graduation address. He said there were four aces that have been a part of his life.

"I hope you will find one that you will keep," he said.

One is to be guardians of liberty and justice, he said. The second is to love people and use money, not the opposite; and the third is to leave the world a little better.

"The fourth is to go now and love others as I have loved you," he said.

Each of the graduates were given the opportunity to speak.

Napier said the most important thing they can take away from the academy are the experiences that shaped their lives.

She quoted from Dr. Seuss' book on the waiting place.

"Don't spend your lives waiting for your life to start," she said. "Go out and make your opportunities."

Naviwala thanked her parents for everything they did for her.

She received four of the nine awards presented by Craig Mousseau, the associate head of the upper school at the academy, including the highest award for academic excellence.

Stillman told a story about a little boy named Joe and the way he was able to get his red star back after losing it. The story was about himself. Stillman took home the award for personal growth and inspiration.

Napier received awards for academic acceleration and initiative as well as the congeniality award. Faulkner excelled in academic growth and perseverance, and was presented with the academic achievement award.

Hagenau said he and the class of 2002 enjoyed, and sometimes suffered, a unique relationship.

"Each came for different reasons and each are seeking different goals," he said. "They have accumulated an impressive array of experiences."

He said they have laughed and cried together and have been supportive and hurtful to each other.

"But the most meaningful relationships have ups and downs," he said.

The class presented the school with six blue and white banners with the academy insignia on them.

"This school really meets the needs of its students," said Naviwala, 18, in an earlier interview. "They really want each student to work to their full capacity. I'm going to miss it."

-- Michelle Jones covers central Pasco community news. She can be reached at (800) 333-7505 Ext. 4612 or (813) 909-4612. Her e-mail address is

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