PALMETTO -- Cellphone in hand, Bailey Mosley turned her back to the stage Thursday after finishing her speech at the Palmetto High School graduation ceremony and snapped a selfie with her fellow graduates in the background.
Mosley, class president and a keynote speaker, started her speech at the Bradenton Area Convention Center with a megaphone, making sure classmates and guests were really paying attention.
"The way we have evolved is truly astonishing," said Mosley, one of 378 graduates.
During her speech, Mosley and other student speakers reflected on the accomplishments of the Class of 2014. But Mosley also urged her fellow graduates not to dwell on the past for too long. High school should not be the best years of Palmetto students' lives.
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"Go out and make better memories," she said.
Before the ceremony, students preparing in black-and-white robes reflected on memories they had made along the way, while straightening robes and finding the correct place to stand.
Todd Chastain, 18, worked to fix his American flag bow tie backstage before the ceremony. Chastain won best dressed earlier in the year for his collection of short shorts, something he said he'll remember fondly. Chastain said he wanted to wear his American flag shorts under his graduation robe, but was advised against it. He settled for the bow tie instead.
"I'll miss all the friends I won't see again," Chastain said.
A dedicated teaching staff, a great learning environment and a group of friends are what Damira Crawford said she will carry with her out of Palmetto High School. Motivating herself to go to school and do well every day was difficult, Crawford said, but it all paid off.
"This is a very exciting thing," Crawford said.
A shared sense of accomplishment that started with Mosley's speech, carried through to the rest of the Class of 2014 speeches Thursday night.
Hunter Brown, another student speaker, told students they were "lucky" to attend a school as great as Palmetto.
Korey Kinder called Palmetto the "greatest high school that has ever existed," and thanked each of his fellow graduates for making it possible. Nathaniel Miller reminded graduates that no matter where the rest of their life takes them, they'll always be family.
"No matter where you go, your Palmetto High School family will be with you every step of the way," Miller said.
Before handing out diplomas and ending the ceremony, Principal Willie Clark reminded graduates the values and skills -- goal setting, planning, hard work and respect -- learned at Palmetto High School would serve them well in the future.
"You're ready and you will success," Clark said, before calling graduates up to stage one by one to receive long-awaited diplomas.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081l. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.