tampabay.com

Graduates ready to 'make history'

By MOLLY MOORHEAD
Published May 27, 2007


DADE CITY - Pasco High School's graduation really began in the gym parking lot three hours before commencement ceremonies Friday.

Graduates in shimmering red and black gowns made their way into the gymnasium, past cars with messages like "Bye PHS c/o 2007" painted on the windows.

They greeted each other not like people who have seen each other every day for four years, but like ones who won't be together this way again.

They mentally rehearsed for the ceremony: grasp diploma with left hand, shake with right.

Inside the gym, the 232 Pasco Pirates talked and texted and hugged and high-fived.

Tabitha Heath, Kalee Burchfield, Elizabeth Garcia and Demara V. Marbra, all friends since middle school, sat on a bench together. They'd had manicures and pedicures and done each other's hair ahead of the big night.

Tabitha was excited and sad at the same time. Kalee felt like dancing, but not with heels on. Demara was just glad the buildup was coming to an end.

High school was cool, Elizabeth said, but with "way too much drama."

The call came for the class portrait. First, the serious one, sitting tall, hands on laps.

Then, the not-so-serious. Out came the light sabers, flexed muscles and peace signs.

And finally, the long-awaited walk outside, into the warm evening, along the open corridors, across the parking lot and into the football stadium, where the crowd awaited them.

The graduates heard from Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning, Pasco's former elections chief and a Pirate from the class of '76.

"Remember the legacy you're creating and leaving," he told them. "The whole world lies before you.

"Make a difference. Change the world. Carpe diem."

They heard from their peers, like classmate Allen Blount who joked: "I've been in this town my entire life. I don't know about you guys, but I'm ready to leave."

Salutatorian Patrick Weightman, who challenged them: "Will we be the group that will slip by without causing a stir? I say we make history."

Then one by one, they glided across the stage, names echoing through the stadium. With each name called, the spectators grew more juiced. Women screamed and horns blared, and the solemn ceremony took on the air of a rock concert. Eager family members gathered at the rope lines.

After the alma mater was sung and the tassels turned, these Pirates came together once more to form a giant "0" and a giant "7" in the grass.

One final round of applause, the mortar boards flew and the crowd surged onto the field.

Fast Facts:

Pasco High School

Bright Futures scholars: 56

Class song: The seniors chose the Eagles' 1972 hit Take it Easy, released 17 years before most of them were born.

Big bucks: The class of 2007 won more scholarship dollars than any class before them: more than $1.6-million.

Beauty queen: Graduate Shakayla Rainey is the reigning Miss Pasco County, the first African-American to earn the crown in the pageant's 59-year history.