MANATEE -- At most high school graduations, seniors don't thank school founders in their commencement speeches.
School founders rarely attend graduations. They are usually on a bronze plaque in the school lobby.
The 11 students who collected diplomas during Inspiration Academy's 2015 commencement all turned to the left and thanked Eddie and Claire Speir, the husband and wife who founded Inspiration Academy. The Speiers, seated onstage Friday afternoon at The Bridge Church at Palma Sola Bay at 4000 75th St. W., also spoke to the crowd of roughly 250.
Of the 12 graduates total (one didn't attend graduation), eight spent only
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their senior year at the school at 7900 40th Ave. W., Bradenton, and yet raved about the private, independent, coeducational day and boarding school, grades six-12 and postgraduate.
"We also have a film academy and an elite sports program with tennis, baseball, sand volleyball, golf and softball," said Nancy Robaldo, school admission manager.
Evidence of Inspiration Academy's film training was everywhere during graduation. A video montage of seniors was shown at the start of graduation, set to music by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth.
Videos done by students documentary style were prepared for each graduate using classmate interviews.
One graduate, Robbie Evans, said he switched his career field from fireman to videographer after attending Inspiration.
The school uses a Christian mentorship model where the students are assigned adults who help them with spiritual and academic work, Robaldo said.
Most of the three female and nine male graduates mentioned their mentorship experience in short graduation speeches. As each student was introduced to receive their diploma, the crowd heard a few words from their mentors, too.
The men were mentored by Pastor Dave Mullins, pitching coach Troy Mattes and Mario Jiminez, vice president of baseball operations.
The women were mentored by Spanish teacher Danette Peters.
"This school is truly an inspiration and dream come true," said graduate Keanu Guzman, who plans to go to State College of Florida and become a physical therapist.
Said graduate Kyla Nuesa, heading to Miami for college: "I want to thank this school for giving me a direction and a plan in this crazy life."
Robaldo's daughter, Emilie Lippencott, 18, came in for praise from her mom.
"Emilie has grown tremendously since she came here for her senior year," Robaldo said. "We treat every child like they are the exception. We have 150 children in this school who are all on track to really grow,"
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.