Sticking through it, trying harder, always doing your homework and, of course, not skipping class were some of the pieces of advice that Palmetto High School seniors said they would tell their freshman-selves if given the chance.
The graduation ceremony, held at the Bradenton Area Convention Center on Wednesday evening, was filled balloons, flowers, loud cheers and screams from the audience and, most importantly, beaming students.
About 430 seniors wearing red, black and white robes cheered loudly as each of their fellow graduates took the stage for their diplomas. The class earned nearly $2 million in scholarships for athletics and academics, Principal Carl Auckerman announced.
"I am so proud of each and every one of you," Auckerman said to the students. "And I hope you will never settle for the path of least resistance and always choose to chase and follow your dreams."
After several jokes that made the crowd erupt in applause, student speaker Jesse West paid special homage to those who raised them and helped them become the people they are today.
"This is what I believe," he said. "If we were able to put as much effort, time and undivided attention into our studies and endeavors as our parents put into us, we would be pretty successful people, wouldn't we?"
"And as for our teachers and staff," he finished, "well that's a whole other speech."