PALMETTO -- It’s a wonder Zachary Jobe was able to walk across the stage to receive his diploma Saturday at Lakewood Ranch High School’s commencement.
It was just two years ago when Zach had to leave high school. He had a broken jaw that led to an infected cheekbone.
Then it got really frightening: He was put into a medically induced coma.
He woke from it on his 16th birthday.
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“I had to learn to walk and talk again,” said the high school graduate with a shy smile. “I had meningitis, encephalitis and aphasia, which is forgetting how to talk. I had no motor function at all.”
Zach, 18, said he couldn’t walk or talk. He had to re-learn everything. But none of that prevented him from standing in the room set aside for young men preparing to walk into the Manatee Convention Center in full cap and gown.
“My memory’s still horrible,” he said.
He said his mom pushed him to take part in Florida Virtual School. Zach returned to Lakewood Ranch in August for the beginning of his senior year. That’s the first time he’d been at the school since he was a sophomore.
Now he plans to attend State College of Florida in August. But it’s his story of graduating on time while aspiring for more that coincides with the theme that rang out at the high school’s graduation.
That theme shined through in graduating senior Alec Bacon’s commencement speech. He pulled a deflated beach ball out from the lectern and reminded his class of the football game where someone brought beach balls. Then he blew a puff of air into the ball.
Each senior’s hand catapulted the ball from one person to another at that football game last year, he said, reminding his classmates that when one ball was taken away by school officials the class shouted out, “We’ve got more.” And another ball was launched in the air.
With each point Alec made, he blew puffs of air in the ball. He said the whole beach ball event at the football game brought “unity and solidarity to our class.”
And he blew the fifth and final puff of air into the ball.
“We weren’t going to give up without a fight,” he said. “We’ve got more! We aren’t going to be content with the status quo. We’ve got more.”
In the end, Alec gave the beach ball to Lakewood Ranch Principal Linda Nesselhauf. She accepted the ball and the theme of conquering life’s obstacles that came with it.
“Thank you for the beach ball,” Nesselhauf said.
Then she asked the class to say it one more time: “One, two, three: We have more!”