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Moon shines on wit and wisdom

By CHASE SQUIRES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 26, 2002

DADE CITY -- Chad Abraham and Lauren Dillard toasted a favorite teacher. Silly String flew into the air.

There were words, solemn and silly, and a ceremony choreographed and spontaneous. Caps flew skyward; a pirate cannon roared.

And in a little more than 90 minutes, the Pasco High School class of 2002 graduated Friday night under a bright moon before more than 1,000 cheering friends and family members.

"Seniors, it's been a long journey, but a short year," principal Patrick Reedy told the class.

Amid the joy and balloons and air horn blasts, school National Honor Society President Grant LaFever reminded his classmates that nothing is constant but change. The journey from kindergarten to senior year is just a step on a long road.

"We look back and see that we have just started preparing," he said. "Now is the time for us to change."

Salutatorian Bhavesh Patel encouraged his classmates to focus their abilities, recognize talent and pursue excellence.

"For personal growth, you must find where your abilities are and know what are your limitations," he said. "We all have some talent in one area or another. Developing one's abilities hides one's shortcomings."

Valedictorian Jason Stafford said the cap and gown is just a symbol of the work that came before. The ceremony isn't the important part, he said, just as the dates marking birth and death on a headstone aren't as important as the dash in the middle that symbolizes the full life in between.

"Live your life so there won't be regrets," he urged. "A legacy isn't formed by what we leave but by how we worked to leave it behind."

And just to prove that the class of 2002 isn't all about being serious, Lauren and Chad, the class president and student council president, donned bouncing gold antennae atop their heads in saluting a favorite teacher, biology instructor Kim Adams, who was out much of the year battling illness.

The pair dubbed her "the Bio Goddess" and quoted children's author Dr. Seuss.

The pair also delivered a comic exchange, urging the class to shake off the humdrum rules of life and pursue their dreams.

"We think Jimmy Buffett has the best business plan ever," Chad said. "Make lots of money and have fun."

The seniors in the band played a final tune with their Band of Pirates, and students accepted their diplomas. Some strode from the stage solemnly while others danced in the grass and mugged for parents sporting cameras.

And then Emalia Young accepted her diploma -- alphabetically the last student in a graduating class of 249 that produced three Bright Futures scholarship winners, 45 Florida Merit Scholars and a Gold Seal scholarship winner -- and the class of 2002 completed a journey that began 13 years ago.

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