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North Fort Myers High School 2016 graduation

Seniors begin new chapter in their lives

June 8, 2016
By CHUCK?BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

Lee County School Board member Steve Teuber perhaps summed up Sunday night's 2016 North Fort Myers High School graduation ceremony best.

"We've been to 12 graduation ceremonies this week, and I can honestly say we saved the best for last," Teuber said.

Teuber wasn't exaggerating, either. Of the 371 graduates, 165 of them had a weighted grade point average of 4.0 or better, and 49 had one greater than 5.0.

Article Photos

North Fort Myers High School senior class president Paige Santiago leads her classmates into Germain Arena at the start of Sunday’s graduation ceremony. To view more photos, see our Facebook page.


Also, nine students achieved a perfect unweighted 4.0, while four others got a two-year jump on the field by also earning their associate's degrees.

Thousands showed up at Germain Arena to watch these seniors walk that aisle and receive their high school diplomas, signifying their emergence into adulthood.

Even before the ceremony, the graduates were nervous, even scared, but excited as they sat in the back of the arena.

"I'm pretty excited. I think we're all ready for this. It's been a long four years," said Justine Bernardi. "You're going to miss everything with the class, but that's life and you move on."

"My heart is racing. I'm scared to become an adult. On Aug. 29, I start firefighting school," Mike Williams said. "I learned a lot here."

The 90-minute ceremony featured words of wisdom, laughs, many "thank you's" and maybe a few tears as these seniors closed the chapter on one part of their lives and start a brand new one.

Class president Paige Santiago kicked things off by saying that not long ago, she and her fellow students had their hands held by their parents, and now were doing things on their own.

"It's time to take ownership of who we are. Regardless of what step you take, make it count and do it well," Santiago said. "Sometimes things don't go as planned and sometimes you'll feel like not trying, but I know for a fact that the Class of 2016 is filled with people who are anything but quitters."

Avrey Brooks gave the commencement address, telling people that life is what you make of it, so try to be happy, because you're responsible for your own happiness. Austin Knipper talked about fear, from himself having to speak in front of thousands of people, to not letting fear hold you back from your dreams.

Class vice president Bailey Shawver gave a "thank-you" speech to all the parents in the crowd. After the ceremony, she got a chance to thank her own parents.

"My parents are big on life lessons and helping us be the best we can be. They're the motivators behind what we do," UF-bound Shawver said. "They've been the biggest forces in teaching me because my mom is a teacher. She has been a teacher in all ways."

Jeff and Linda, Bailey's parents, had a lot of good things to say about their daughter.

"We're proud of her. She's an amazing young lady and we know she has a bright future ahead of her," Linda said.

"It went too fast. We have enjoyed every single stage in her life and continue to enjoy them and look forward to the next one," Jeff said.

It was a mob scene afterward, with students getting pictures and selfies with their families and friends, showing great pride in their accomplishments while being a little sad that those pictures may be the last they take together.

"It hasn't hit me yet, but it will later tonight when everything is over," said graduate Alyssa Till, who will attend FGCU to major in psychology. "I didn't do much the first two years, but then joined the marching band, which was the best decision I made in high school."

"I don't think it hit me until I heard all the speeches and it was like 'Wow, I'm not in high school anymore,'" said Hannah Crandall. "I'm going to miss my friends because we're going separate ways, so that's sad."

"I'm happy and sad at the same time but very proud. I can't express it," said Michelle Crandall, Hannah's mom. "I told her that it seemed like yesterday she was 3 years old. It's amazing how time flies."

Principal Matt Mederios finished his second year at North with a school that is ranked in the top 1 percent in the nation as one of the most rigorous high schools. He said this class had a lot to do with it.

"When you look at the accomplishments of this class, they're second to none. Nine students maintained a perfect GPA, that's unheard of. It's remarkable what they have achieved," Mederios said. "I'm going to miss the dignity and respect they've always shown everyone and how they accept everybody."



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