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North High graduates more than 400

June 3, 2015
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

The dignity, empathy and respect the kids showed for the peers, the faculty, as well as their desire for service is what set them apart from the rest.

And, oh, yes, their academic achievements were pretty impressive, too.

That's what North Fort Myers High School principal Matt Mederios said Sunday night as he handed out diplomas to more than 400 students in front of a packed house at Alico Arena on the campus of FGCU during graduation ceremonies.

Article Photos

The graduates throw their caps in the air during the North Fort Myers High School graduation ceremony at FGCU's Alico Arena on Sunday.


What a long, strange trip it's been, as the Grateful Dead once sang. And that can certainly be said about this group, having had four principals in four years and celebrated triumphs and overcame adversity as many classes nationwide have to.

But in the end, it was worth it as they walked the aisle to get their reward for 13 years of hard work, ended one stage of their lives, only to begin another.

"This is a pretty spectacular senior class. Their academic achievements are pretty amazing," Mederios said. "I've really enjoyed being part of the culture here. Coming back to be a part of their lives and see how they've grown on what they've accomplished is very special.

Mederios and others also used the word "diverse" to describe the class of 2015.

"They're talented, smart kids who can't wait to get the future started. It's a good group," said teacher Michelle Whitener. "They're fun and motivated. They like to work and get involved. Each class has its own unique feel and there are kids who you get close to. It's a mixed blessing."

The students waited patiently for an hour as they took millions of selfies with friends one last time and got in line according to alphabetical order.

For some, graduation couldn't come soon enough. For others, it will be the greatest day of their lives until they marry or have kids.

For young adults like Jake Duff, it was bittersweet.

"We're all excited. It's been a long journey and we've become very close. It's exciting but it's sad at the same time," Duff said, who will attend Florida State and attempt to be a walk-on with the football team. "The friendships you establish over the years and it's great to see them in the same room. I'm going to miss everything."

The academic achievement numbers are staggering, as class president Shane Rambo was quick to point out during his welcoming speech.

Out of 403 graduates, 302 of them graduated with a GPA over 3.0. Also, 71 have already earned AICE diplomas, 69 were members of the National Honor Society, 37 had a weighted GPA over 5.0 and 13 have already earned associates degrees in college.

While it was stormy outside, it was festive inside. The ceremony itself was filled with laughs, cheers, and a few tears. Honorary speaker Keaton Ufheil did the math and told the audience the graduating class "spent a combined 150 years in high school, with 50 of them wondering when lunch was going to start."

"I don't know what made me want to come here and I probably shouldn't have had any say in it at all. I was 13 and had no idea about what high school was like, but I was happy to be a student here," Ufheil said. "I had teachers who were really invested in their students' success and they really cared."

Andrew Salyer, who gave the commencement address, told the class "Carpe Diem, seize the day" and also did the math on the millions of seconds and minutes the students spent as Red Knights.

"We are in a world that is moving faster than ever before More information is available at our fingertips than ever before, but we've only been able to achieve so much because we were able to seize the day."

McKenzie Schultz gave the thank you speech to the parents before Mederios presented the graduating class to School Board Member Steven Teuber and Superintendent of Schools Nancy Graham before the long procession began.

After singing the alma mater one final time and words of wisdom from Mederios, the caps went flying and it was time to start a new chapter, but not without celebrating with family first.

"I'm so proud. She put her mind to it and enjoyed high school. She did extra work to graduate early. She's ready to move on to bigger and better things," said Ezra Padgham, father of daughter Heather, who graduated a year early.

"We spent four years preparing for this, so it's very exciting," said Sam Bowling, who will attend Florida Southern to pursue musical theater. "I'm going to miss North High and the atmosphere and spirit. It's such a great school, but we're on to bigger things."



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