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With all eyes looking toward their futures

Published May 22, 2005

TRINITY - Brian Harris squinted into the bright sun, trying to find his daughter in the long line of graduates filing into the stadium at J.W. Mitchell High School.

Had anyone seen Ashley yet, he asked his family during the 13-minute rendition of Pomp and Circumstance.

"There's so many of them," said his wife, Sandy Moran, craning her neck and shielding her eyes with a black and gold commencement program. "They all look alike from here."

For the class of 2005, Friday's commencement ceremony marked the closing of a pivotal chapter for some 425 graduates receiving high school diplomas or GEDs.

Before an audience of family, friends and special guests such as state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, and school board member Cathi Martin, class valedictorian Alyssa Lunin and class president Erica Butensky wrapped their story up in a speech they delivered together.

The fourth class to graduate from Mitchell High had gone from Ninja Turtles and Nintendo, to the Gulf War, the Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11, hurricane days to final exams, they told the audience. Now it was time to embrace the future - equipped with knowledge and experiences.

As a whole, Mitchell's Class of 2005 racked up some $637,640 in scholarships and reveled in the school's athletic highlights that included conference championships in football, boy's cross-country, boy's basketball and girl's swim and golf teams.

Still, each had their own story.

There was Sehrish Tareen, an 18-year-old recent transplant from Brooklyn, N.Y., who knows well the struggle of keeping grades up while dealing with a rare bone disease called Kyphomelic Dysplasia. The struggle may even have inspired her to one day return to her native Pakistan and become an orthopedic surgeon.

There was Jose Rosado, 18, who has learned that "nothing comes easy." For nearly two years he has balanced his studies with the responsibilities of being a father, all the while keeping alive his dream to go to college and be an architect.

And there was 17-year-old Yuchen Huo, who came to this country with her mom three-and-a-half years ago from China. She graduated eighth in her class despite language and cultural barriers and the death of her mother in a car crash.

"I really do see this as a land of opportunity - so full of chance," she said. "If you work hard there's always a door you can open up and there's always something great and wonderful on the other side."

[Last modified May 22, 2005, 01:07:21]

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