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Reflection, tears and a little bit of levity

By BRADY DENNIS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 26, 2002

ZEPHYRHILLS -- Before the Pomp and Circumstance, before the camera flashes and cow bells and shouts from parents, the 210 members of Zephyrhills High School's class of 2002 met in the school cafeteria.

On a video monitor above them, they watched their loved ones -- nearly 4,000 of them -- file into the school gymnasium.

Moments before they marched into the noisy throng, they had one last chance to reflect, to share one last round of tears and hugs and laughs.

"If you walk down these halls, you will hear a certain sound of silence," Phil Sinaguglia , a popular English teacher and senior class sponsor, told the group, which included 54 honor graduates. "That silence is the sound of your absence. You have left, in more ways than one, an indelible mark on this school.

And just what kind of mark? Principal Jim Davis chuckled at the question.

"They definitely have enjoyed themselves," Davis said. "A lot of these kids grew up together. They have a good time. They definitely enjoy the social aspect of high school."

Friday's ceremony held a special moment for Davis, too. After nine years as principal at Zephyrhills, after handing out thousands of diplomas, he arrived at the one bearing the name Mickey Dean Davis, his son. He traded the traditional handshake for a hug.

After a moving video with candid pictures of class members and several speeches beseeching graduates to make the best of the future, graduating senior Daniel Pulley ended the evening on a lighter note.

He told the graduates there were three facts he wanted them to ponder. First, that the movie Rocky IV caused the fall of communism. Second, that the song Ironic by Alanis Morissette is "in no way ironic." And finally, that "we live in a world where people are people, dolphins are dolphins and puppies are pretty cute."

After an uproar of laughter, Pulley left his classmates with a final thought, which he rated "seven out of 10" on the inspirational scale.

"It's better to aim for the stars and miss," he said, "than to aim for a giant pile of poo and hit it dead on."

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