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Lakewood Ranch graduates lauded (with photo galley)

PALMETTO — Liliana Ibarra is the first in her family to graduate from high school.

Brianna Lindsey did not miss a day of school during her high school career.

Perhaps she was inspired by Katherine Pine who has not missed a day of school in the past 12 years.

They were just a few members of the Lakewood Ranch High School class of 2010 who stood in line Wednesday night to receive their diplomas with 442 fellow seniors.

Inside a packed Manatee Convention Center, the school’s Principal Linda Nesselhauf commended the graduates for their voluminous accomplishments during the past four years, including earning back-to-back A school grades and donating a school record of 637 pints of blood.

“In four short years, you have mastered many undertaking,” she said as Manatee County school board members Bob Gause, Barbara Harvey and Jane Pfeilsticker and Superintendent Tim McGonegal looked on from the stage.

She also thanked the graduates’ families and friends for inspiring them to dream, achieve and to make a difference in the world.

“It’s with overwhelming pride that I present to you the Lakewood Ranch Class of 2010,” Nesselhauf told the graduates’ families, friends and teachers.

Melissa Kelly, a commencement speaker, also thanked the class’ faculty and coaches for their guidance and instruction.

“They are the ones we have to thank for starting to see the change in ourselves,” Kelly said.

Her fellow commencement speaker, Jessica Hagood, also addressed the graduates, all adorned in green, silver and black gowns.

“All of us have grown in ways we could not have imagined,” she said. “It’s time to let go and explore the world on our own. Class of 2010, I wish you the best of luck throughout the rest of your life and cannot wait to see all of us out there changing the world.”

For family and friends who witnessed the graduation, it was a bittersweet night. Some family members rang cowbells and blew air horns, while others dabbed their eyes with tissues throughout most of the evening event that included a 10-minute video of the group’s senior year in review.

“It’s pretty cool to graduate,” said prom king Po-Yi Ho, who said he will attend Yale to study science.

The 17-year-old graduate, originally from Taiwan, ranked in the top half of the top 1 percent of all the seniors in the United States as a National Merit Scholar this year.

“This is so surreal,” chuckled graduate Genevieve Jimenez, 18, who plans to attend the University of South Florida to study medicine. “I remember my first day of high school. I was kind of disappointed because I realized how many more years I’d be in school. But now I’m super excited to continue my education and see what happens in life.”

Prior to the ceremony her parents Amaris and Chris Centofanti stood in line outside the convention center in Palmetto reminiscing about her first day of kindergarten.

“She didn’t know a bit of English,” said her mother, who is originally from Puerto Rico.

But all that changed as the couple watched their daughter master the language during her schooling.

“Now she talks too much,” her mother said, then laughed.

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