PALMETTO -- It was clear Friday night at the Manatee County Convention and Civic Center that the Garcia family was proud of the first person in their family to graduate from high school -- Cesar Garcia Jr.
When his name was called on stage during Braden River High School commencement, horns went off and screams from his family rang out. But that wasn’t the only indicator of their joy. A Ford Windstar and a Ford F-150 was covered with the words: “Cesar Garcia you’ve made us proud,” and “We love you.”
In just a few weeks, Cesar, 18, will be headed to Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., where he has received a full scholarship. During his commencement speech, Cesar shared with a packed convention center the advice his parents gave him.
“Son, you can do it. Never give up,” he said. “You can do what you put your mind to.”
Advance placement teacher Jenny Dobbs used one word to describe Cesar -- “legendary.”
“I knew who he was long before he stepped foot in my classroom,” she said about the student who graduated in the top 4 percent of his class. “He had built for himself a reputation.”
In 21 years in the business, there hasn’t been anyone who more possessed the fire in their belly to be successful, Dobbs said about Cesar who also became president of the National Honor Society.
But Dobbs wasn’t the only one boasting about a special student. Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew Collis described one of Cesar’s classmates, Matt Malcolm, as “a fine youngster -- a pure joy.”
Congressman Vern Buchanan agrees with that assessment. He recommended Matt to be selected for the United States Military Academy Preparatory School also known as West Point Prep. Later, he will attend West Point, Malcolm said. Collis said about 80,000 students applied. He believes about 800 were selected for the honor in which Matt has received.
Each young man, along with several other student notables wearing the maroon, silver and black robes, were described by another commencement speaker, student Desirae Sutherland, as having “a potential for greatness.”
“You don’t have to have your name in the paper to attain greatness,” Sutherland told her classmates.
Steven Evens, who also spoke, said, “What began Aug. 20, 2007, comes to an end tonight. We’ve become a part of each other and that’s a beautiful thing.”
But it was Braden River Principal Jim Pauley who buoyed the students into the future when he said, “This is going to be your first day of the future. I challenge you to continue the legacy you’ve established at Braden River High School. I thank you for a great four years.”