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A time to cherish -- Sights, sounds and smells of graduation

By THOMAS LAKE
Published May 27, 2007


The first graduates of Pasco County public schools' Class of 2007 crossed the stage Friday night. For many, getting that diploma was more than an academic accomplishment. It was a personal triumph. Their stories are featured in today's Pasco Times, with full coverage of Friday's commencement exercises across the county continuing on pages 6 and 7. The graduation ceremonies held Saturday for Land O'Lakes, Mitchell and Wesley Chapel high schools will be featured Monday. We'll linger one last time on their memories in these pages. Here they are: The Class of 2007.

3,092 Number of Pasco County public high school graduates in 2007.

1,850 Number of Pasco County public high school graduates in 1997.

775 Number of Bright Futures Scholars. As of the seventh semester. Figure does not include scholars from Wesley Chapel, which could not provide a number Friday.

1,255 Estimated number of Pasco County public high school graduates in 1987.

NEW PORT RICHEY - Many years from now, when they are not so young, when they are gray at the temples and sagging at the hips, when they have scattered up the coast and into the heartland, when they are climbing the ladder or walking the streets, when they are wounded from battle or selling used cars, when they are mothers and fathers and Hollywood stars, the 302 members of Ridgewood High School's Class of 2007 will remember their days in orange and blue.

No two will see the same thing. But if you could take each memory from each mind like the film from a camera and take it to the one-hour photo, and you mixed up a multisensory album as thick as a room and then you opened to some random page near the middle, here is what you would find.

Three girls stealing out to the parking lot for one last Camel Light. Royal blue gowns rippling in the breeze. A cigarette crushed on the heel of a shiny black pump.

Some kid doing splits on the gym floor, some other kid mooning the whole school, that time T.J. wore the sexy little Speedo.

The smiling face of John Reppert, the charisma of Freddie Quijano. Principal Randy Koenigsfeld crowd-surfing during Senior Countdown. Alex Papadopoulos whaling on his trombone.

Dangerous chemical experiments. Flights from campus for early lunch. Clandestine text messages. Girls in ball gowns and boys doing sit-ups. That time what's-her-name went on stage wearing a whale's tail. Jarred Caputo pushing 50.

Riotous hand-clapping in the cafeteria.

"Sen-iors! Sen-iors!"

Stephany Nunez leading the pledge. Steven Galatolo's mom doling out orange-pink roses. Samantha Suriano riding on a speedway with someone somehow related to NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon. Benjamin Koenigsfeld thanking his beautiful girlfriend and his devoted mother and especially Jesus Christ.

The walls of the gym. So blue. So very blue. A hairline fracture in the glass of the fire-extinguisher case. Chairs geometric on the hardwood. Rows of white lights. The woman in the fourth row with the low-cut top.

Marching in two lines of brilliant blue. Whooping and hollering. Turning the lockers into steel drums. Somebody flicking the light switch. Instant discotheque.

"The lights are gonna give me a seizure!"

Narrow hallway. Hot. Smell of perfume wafting through the dark. Distant strains Friday evening of Pomp and Circumstance.

Thomas Lake can be reached at tlake@sptimes.com or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245.

Fast Facts:

 

Ridgewood High School

Graduates: 302

Bright Futures Scholars: 66

Scholarships awarded: More than $2-million

Pasco County's Outstanding Senior: Ridgewood's Stephany Nunez, who already has an associate's degree along with her high school diploma.

Girl power: Meghan Seltman broke a state record in weightlifting.

Milestone: Led by a strong group of seniors, baseball coach Larry Beets won his 500th game.