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Shift to real world met with changes

Published May 22, 2005

ZEPHYRHILLS - High school graduation is traditionally a time of change.

"Welcome to the end of your mom doing your laundry," salutatorian Chloe Estep told Zephyrhills High School graduates. "Welcome to the beginning of your adult life.

But for the Zephyrhills High School Class of 2005, the changes began with the ceremony itself.

The 201 members of this year's class had someone new leading the ceremony this year, and someone new reading each of their names as they made their ways across the stage.

Friday night marked Gerri Painter's first commencement ceremony as Zephyrhills' principal. Painter took over for Jim Davis when Davis was transferred last November to James Irvin Education Center in Dade City.

Zephyrhills seniors lost another graduation staple in March when English teacher Phil Sinaguglia, known to students as "Mr. Sin," died just days after being diagnosed with cancer.

This year, at student requests, assistant principal Mike Macchiarola, stepped into "Mr. Sin's" traditional role of reading the name of each graduating senior. Class president Ryan Orosz recognized Sinaguglia's wife, who received a standing ovation from the audience.

Even in the face of change, valedictorian Suneal Bedi asked his fellow graduates to literally "find their beats."

"The essence of music is the beat," Suneal said in his music-themed address that even included a short rap. "That's what's unique to every song. I urge you to find your beat. Find what keeps you going."

The week before the ceremony, Painter said she watched videos of previous ceremonies and tried to keep commencement as familiar as possible for students. That's one of the reasons Painter asked former principal Davis to be the one to hand the Class of 2005 their diplomas, an announcement that was received with applause.

"I felt like he had been their principal for 31/2 years," she said. "And I thought that was only fair that they receive their diplomas from the principal that they know."

And in addition to recognizing change, the school also recognized the many accomplishments of this year's seniors. The Class of 2005, earned almost $573,000 in scholarship money and had one National Merit Scholar, Chloe Estep. The school also recognized one student, Sasha Wright, who had already earned her associate's degree from Pasco-Hernando Community College before graduation.

Now the Zephyrhills graduates are looking to the changes of the future as they go to college or into the military or off to full-time employment.

"I'm relieved," said Kristi Beinhauer, who is leaving for Florida State in the fall. "Now the real work begins."

[Last modified May 24, 2005, 19:24:42]

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