“Pomp and Circumstance” rang throughout the Don Taft University Center Arena at Nova Southeastern University as the Class of 2015 walked across the stage and became American Heritage alumni.
Over two hours prior to the 3 p.m. start of the ceremony, Mrs. Blum and Dean Nolle arrived to check up on the setup of the stage in the arena. In the side halls, guidance counselors and teachers prepared to direct seniors into alphabetical order. Outside, students and their families started trickling in. One of the first families to arrive was the Slotkin family.
“I wanted to make sure I got a good seat since my son was giving a speech so we got there at one,” said Ms. Audrey Slotkin.
Also there was senior Adam Behar. “I was just there early because my mom was helping prepare the stage and also orienting herself alongside the other faculty in preparation for the ceremony,” said Behar.
A Cappella students who performed later in the afternoon came early to go through their positions on stage. Across the arena, WAHS news scrambled to set up for their live stream of the ceremony.
“It was really hectic and stressful, trying to get everything just perfect for the live stream, but knowing that we allowed hundreds of people from around the world to watch their friends and family graduate was such a wonderful feeling. It was really worth it in the end,” said Grace King, Executive Producer of WAHS news.
“Because we didn’t have enough graduation tickets, our huge family couldn’t go to watch my cousin. However, we were able to both enjoy a perfect seat at home and share in the memory of her graduation through the wonderful live stream WAHS provided” said Lauren Adler, a junior at Cypress Bay High School.
One hour prior to the official start time, the doors to the arena opened and audience members started filling up the seats. While family and friends waited above, the seniors were lined up in alphabetical order in the two side halls of the arena by school faculty. Seniors took last minute selfies, stood in front of the air conditioning and adjusted their graduation caps and tassels while they were eventually corralled into alphabetical order.
“During the chaos of lining the seniors up in the hallway every year, I think ‘Do they think this is a joke?’ Then they do it all right and I am always proud of them,” said Guidance Counselor Ms. Luciana Mandal.
Teachers also gathered in the side halls, preparing to enter the arena as well.
“This is the year that my former 7th grade students graduate, some of which I had again in their senior year. The experience is beyond gratifying, watching these young men and women grow and mature through the years. They have come to understand the lessons beyond science that I wanted them to learn many years ago,” said AP Environmental Science teacher Mr. Osmel Rodriguez.
The teachers walked out and took their seats in the main area of the arena first. Then, it was time for the seniors. The seniors walked out from the north and south side halls in the back of the arena and then met in the back-center. From there, they were greeted by Mrs. Blum and Mrs. Shienvold who sent them to the front in pairs to take their seats.
After the Pledge of Allegiance, Heritage’s A Cappella, which included five graduating seniors, performed the “Star Spangled Banner.”
Following the A Cappella performance, Senior Class President Pedro Rojas welcomed everyone to the ceremony and then introduced Mrs. Blum. Of the first senior class to have elected its own class president, Rojas started the tradition of having the class president introduce the principal at graduation.
“Despite battling nerves and apprehension in memorizing the introduction, I’m happy to have started this tradition. It’s a moment I’ll never forget,” said Rojas.
Then Mrs. Shienvold introduced the Salutatorian, Lawrence Xu, who talked about how the class of 2015 grew and changed throughout high school. Xu also talked about how the soon-to-be graduates had new responsibilities and independence waiting in the wings and how Heritage had prepared them for the future.
Afterwards, Mrs. Blum introduced the Valedictorian, Francisco Rivera, who commended the efforts of the graduating class and posed the question as to how the class would go on to change the world for the better, also sharing a personal story about the genesis of his own drive as inspiration to the audience.
After Rivera, Ms. Davis introduced Jorge Garcia, the Academy Reflections Speaker, who talked about the sacrifice he made, leaving his family to come to Heritage in order to pursue his career in golf.
Last, Dean Nolle introduced the Class Speaker, Zachary Slotkin, who talked about the biggest moments and memories of the Class of 2015 and about how these experiences brought such a diverse class together.
“It was easily my most memorable experience in high school and one of my proudest moments” said Slotkin.
After the speakers, the A capella group returned to the stage to perform “Credo” by Mark Hayes.
“It was an honor to perform at graduation and the preparation was a lot of fun. I really love the song we sang because it was all about how everyone is a gift and has something special to offer the world. I am sad to see the chorus seniors go, but I can’t wait for what next year has in store,” said junior Farrah Sklar.
Finally, it was time for the members of the Class of 2015 to walk across the stage. 360 students went on the stage, picked up their diplomas, had their tassels flipped from right to left and left the stage as graduates, tossing their caps into the air when the ceremony ended.
Mrs. Blum dismissed the class for one last time and the class left the arena to take photos outside.
“Graduation was beautiful,” said Mrs. Blum, “I wish the best for them.”