Scenes from Manatee School for the Arts 2019 graduation ceremony
They have talent, they have passion and now they’re ready to get the show started.
On Tuesday, 210 students received diplomas at Manatee School for the Arts 2019 commencement ceremony at the Bradenton Area Convention Center.
The public charter school, located in Palmetto, allows students grades six through 12 to explore disciplines like dance, digital arts, writing, music and theater in addition to traditional coursework.
The school’s creative energy was on full display for the big night.
The Goldtones Jazz Band kicked off the ceremony with a swinging rendition of “Pomp and Circumstance” as graduates strolled out in red and gold robes and bedazzled caps.
After a choral take on the national anthem from the chamber choir, assistant principals Steven Marshall and Terence Devine took the podium to recognize the work of outstanding graduates.
First to be congratulated were the “Manatee Originals,” or students who attended MSA for all seven years of middle and high school.
Also recognized were students with stellar GPAs and three students who participated in a special MSA program called the Academy for Advanced Academics.
In addition to taking advanced and dual enrollment courses and maintaining high GPAs, Cassidy Schmidt, Jennifer Smitman and Skye Wright completed community service projects that collected hygiene products for low income students, got books for a Manatee County elementary school and helped students study for the SAT and ACT.
Marshall also offered the graduating class some words of wisdom for facing the real world.
“It’s a never-ending process of setting goals and striving for success and overcoming the challenges of life,” he said.
The jazz band came back to perform Arturo Sandoval’s “Rhythm of Our World” before the highlight of the evening.
The bulk of the graduation ceremony was reserved for seven student speakers, who shared reflections on their time at MSA, advice for their peers and hopes for the future.
“Strive for all the things you wish to accomplish in this life,” said Valerie Mendoza, who also took the time to thank her teachers for their dedication.
Jazmin Peralta, a Manatee Original who was the voice of the school’s morning announcements for years, also spoke.
“I’m thankful for the arts programs that you won’t find anywhere else,” Peralta said. “We all found our niche.”
Chastity Faye closed out her speech with words from Michelle Obama.
“It is absolutely still possible to make a difference,” Faye quoted. “Now go make a difference.”
Before the last two student speakers, a group of seniors took to the stage and the aisles to perform a routine set to a cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” to massive applause from the room.
Principal Bill Jones closed out the ceremony, noting that no keynote speaker was necessary with such talented students.
“Our students tell our story better than anybody,” Jones said.
Jones congratulated students on their academic achievements and dedication to graduating.
“There are students here tonight who have struggled with adversity in their lives, uncertainty in their home life, physical illnesses and other conditions that often made graduating from high school seem like a distant reality. But they have persevered,” Jones said.
Then it was time for the crowd to get excited as the students walked the stage to receive their diplomas.
Some of the students will begin their higher education with a head start. Thanks to the dual enrollment program at State College of Florida, they already have associate degrees.
MSA graduates will attend colleges including University of Tampa, University of South Florida, University of Florida, Nova Southeastern University and Florida Southern College.