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Crowds, memories on minds this grad season

By ROBERT KING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 26, 2002

[Times photo: Kevin White]
Jason Ingram waits in the Hernando High School Performing Arts Center on Saturday morning for the school's graduation exercises to begin.
Springstead High School never seems to stop growing. And so must its graduation.

As the school prepares to say farewell Wednesday to its largest graduating class, school officials are trying to make the ceremony a little more intimate.

With parents stuck in the bleachers and most of the action in the middle of a football field more than 100 feet away, the school this year will deploy up to four video projection screens to bring the event closer to the audience.

"We would like for parents to get a much better look at the grads," said Ed Chester, an assistant principal at Springstead. "It's a long way. If we can make it a little more personal, then that's our purpose."

In a season stilted in tradition, that's one of the few changes evident as 2002 graduations kick into full swing.

Hernando High said farewell to 268 seniors on Saturday. Wider Horizons and Hernando Christian Academy had ceremonies on Friday. And Spring Hill Christian Academy honored its first senior class on May 18.

The ceremonies continue this week with Springstead High at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Central High at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and West Hernando Christian at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Springstead, which seems to explore new frontiers in crowding every year, had about 320 graduates last year, said principal Dot Dodge. Teachers were still determining final grades Friday, but this year's number looks closer to 360.

"It's great. It's huge," Dodge said of her senior class, some of whom were students at J.D. Floyd Elementary School when she was an administrator there. "I've known a lot of these kids for a very long time."

At Central, officials expect to have more than 300 graduates.

A year after four seniors were banned from graduation for their role in campus vandalism, all has been happily quiet this year, said principal Dennis McGeehan.

Central's class of 2002 earned more than $3-million in scholarship money, said guidance counselor Joan Emerson. Thanks to an active scholarship committee and a strong class of seniors, that's nearly as much as the county's other two high schools combined.

Hernando High pulled in nearly $1.9-million and Springstead $1.2-million.

Seniors at Hernando High, which began having its commencement on Saturdays with the class of 2000, made a point to remember the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks with a note on their graduation programs. Along with the date of the attacks are the words: "In our hearts forever."

"This is a very sensitive, very caring class," said Hernando High assistant principal Jane Padgett.

After some initial confusion about the attacks, Hernando High principal Elaine Sullivan said, her seniors rallied together.

"I think they realized that we have to keep on living, and school became more precious to them," Sullivan said.

-- Robert King covers education in Hernando County and can be reached at 754-6127. Send e-mail to

Hernando High School top students


Brooke Browning

GPA: 4.26

College: University of Florida

Major: Biomedical engineering


Samantha Gomes

GPA: 4.15

College: University of South Florida

Major: Undecided


1. Brooke Browning

2. Samantha Gomes

3. Theresa Flaspeter

4. Chad Jones

5. Travis Johnson

6. Ellen Widboom

7. Brian Fisher

8. Ryann Pedone

9. Erin Mountain

10. Kimberly Williams

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