MANATEE -- On the first day of kindergarten, Jillian Kernan’s teacher gave away cotton balls, to absorb the tears, and a tea bag, to relax them.
So it seemed only fitting that after Jillian, 17, walked across the stage at the Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School graduation Friday night, her mom tossed down a tea bag.
“I feel incredible. I feel all grown up,” said Jillian, who will attend Manhattanville College in New York to follow her dreams of becoming an actor or singer.
Jillian was among 67 students who graduated at Bradenton Municipal Auditorium.
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It was a night filled with laughter as student speakers Lisa Subbiondo, Allison Dickey and Frank Glover reflected on the past, present and future.
Lisa looked back on the past, playing on the playground when they were children, finishing up papers late at night, shopping at Abercrombie & Fitch and attempting “relationships that never worked out.”
As for the present, Allison urged students to embrace the moment and mentioned how she was waiting for the next “embarrassing” thing her mom would do.
Sure enough, at that moment, her family held up cut out photos of her face and cheered.
Allison smiled and laughed.
Frank summed up the future by simply telling his classmates to “just go big or go home.”
After she received her diploma, Allison said she will always fondly look back at her time at Saint Stephen’s.
“I’ll look back on the friendships and the wonderful people here,” she said, confident that she will not lose touch with her classmates. “Facebook will help.”
As with any graduation, it’s not just the students who are embarking on a new chapter in their lives. Parents and loved ones are, too.
Silvia Corrie watched her youngest child Gabriela Caroleene Dowling Corrie walk across the stage and held back tears with nanny Maria Vilohis by her side. Even as they took photos before the ceremony, they couldn’t believe the moment had come.
“I’ve been with her since she was 5,” Vilohis said. “She’s my big, big girl. I love her.”
Mom said she’s proud of her Gabriela and wishes her nothing but the best. She also offered her daughter some advice: “Keep your good morals and take advantage of every opportunity.”
Luckily, Silvia Corrie’s nest won’t be totally empty after Gabriela leaves for Southern Methodist University in Texas. She’ll be leaving behind her dog.
Saint Stephen’s Episcopal
Number of Graduates: 67
Speakers: Cindy Scaruffi-Klispie, Alan Klispie, Zina Versfeld, Alexa Body, Lisa Subbiondo, Allison Dickey, Frank Glover, Cassidy Whidden, Jillian Kernan, Diane Nguyen George, Janet Pullen, Julie Leach, Randy Watts, Elizabeth Teske and Alex Andujar
Shining Moment: Pre-school students from Saint Stephen’s came out in yellow caps and gowns to sing The Beatles’ “Hello, Goodbye” to graduates.
Best Quote: “College is awesome,” Diane Nguyen George, who graduated from the school in 2001
Interesting Sight: Each student received a red rose after the ceremony.