Next 'game' begins ... after congratulatory handshake

Published May 27, 2007

ZEPHYRHILLS - Cory Sommers had a double graduation of sorts Friday.

Along with 262 of his classmates, he marked the end of his days at Zephyrhills High School. But he also marked the end of his sophomore year of college.

Cory had tackled high school and college courses simultaneously, so on Friday, he earned his high school diploma along with an associate in arts degree from Pasco-Hernando Community College.

At the start of Zephyrhills High School's commencement ceremony, the principal paused to present Cory with a special award.

And so began the parade of honors for the Class of 2007.

The seniors filed up to the front of the school's gymnasium to get their diplomas, decked out in black or white robes, some with colorful cords and sashes.

A row of school faculty members offered a congratulatory handshake to each student and a long-stemmed red rose to the girls.

High school graduation is kind of like a person's wedding day, school principal Gerri Painter told the crowd. It marks the start of a new chapter in life, she said.

And a few top students offered encouraging words as well.

"High school is not a milestone, but a stepping stone in your life, "said Kristen Beville, the valedictorian. She talked about the challenges and triumphs of high school. When Kristin mentioned the school's district championship-winning football team, the crowd cheered.

Salutatorian Josalynn Wireman had this to say: "Life is a game. And I believe that to be successful in life, you have to have a winning formula."

"They've accomplished a great deal. They're going to be missed," David Jones, the school's head senior sponsor, said of the outgoing seniors before the start of the ceremony. "They're pleasant. They're fun. They're smart."

Seventy-five Zephyrhills High grads were awarded the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship, according to Jan Jones, who works in the school's guidance office.

For many, the next step is college, she said.

Kristin Colquitt, 17, will become a freshman at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee in the fall. She hopes to become a big-time record producer.

These days, high school is tough, her dad, Spencer Colquitt said. It's easy for students to be distracted.

"I'm extremely proud of (Kristin) because, A.) she beat the odds; B.) she's going to college; and C.) she's out of my house," Spencer Colquitt said, with a chuckle.

Fast Facts:

Zephyrhills High School

Graduates: 263

Bright Futures Scholars: 75

Class Motto: "We look to the past with pride and the future with hope."