BRADENTON -- The stands at Hawkins Stadium were packed, and the skies cleared as the graduating Hurricanes entered onto the field to roaring screams.
Manatee High School graduates beamed with anticipation and accomplishment as senior class president Taylor Zeisloft welcomed them and reminded them how privileged they had been.
But before he was done welcoming his fellow graduates Saturday night, Zeisloft made sure to take a selfie with the class in the background.
"To the class of 2014, I wish you all the best, and I know greats are to come," said. "I look forward to hearing all about them at our class reunion."
Commencement speaker Andre Sanchez took them all on a journey back through the long 13 years it took to get to graduation, quoting a lesson he learned from Dr. Seuss at the age of 6 that still held true today.
"Today is your day, you are off to great places," he read. "Today is your day, your mountain is waiting."
Hard work paid off, he said to them.
Speaker Maria Paula Vargas reminisced about their fears.
"There is one common fear we all hold: What will our futures hold?" Vargas said.
She compared their journey to an elevator that had been stopping at all 13 floors throughout their years in school.
"Today marks the day we look onto the rooftop and all world has to offer," Vargas said.
In addition to honoring the graduates, Manatee High also honored one of its alums for a history of outstanding service to the school. Joe Kinnan, 1963 Manatee High graduate, returned to his alma mater after a successful career coaching college football to teach, coach and serve as the school's athletic director.
"Manatee High was the only school I ever wanted to teach at," Kinnan said. "There are people that have never been a part of Manatee High School, so they don't understand."
But it is the people, the families and the community that make the city of Bradenton and the school such a special place, he said.
"Good people live here, and that makes it special," Kinnan said. "That makes it magical."
Looking to the future after a comical look at the journey, commencement speaker Clancy Vaughn quoted "Toy Story."
"Just remember what your old pal said, you have a friend in me," Vaughn said.
Janessa Danay was among the many students who was excited awaiting the ceremony's start.
"I can't wait to be titled as a graduate of high school," Danay said.
The graduate plans to attend State College of Florida, where she intends to major in accounting.
"Numbers, it's easy to me," Danay said.
Looking back, though, it is fun classes like Spanish that she will miss the most.
"I'm not fluent, but I understand it," Danay said.
Austin Rogers was excited as he quietly awaited his moment as well.
His best memories are the times he spent playing football and playing music.
"I met a lot of good people like that," Rogers said.
Looking toward the future, he hopes to get his personal trainer certification, he said.
"I want to help people with their health and help them to feel good about themselves," Rogers said.
Morgan Debortoli was feeling nervous in those last moments before the graduates entered onto the field.
"There is no way to describe how excited I am," Debortoli said. "It's a moment I have been waiting for."
The next chapter of her life will take her to the University of Central Florida, where she plans to pursue a degree in education.
Jessica De Leon, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.