Seniors walk the stage at 2019 Saint Stephen’s graduation
Teachers at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School set a high bar for their students. As the Class of 2019 graduated, students said they were ready to exceed those expectations as they head toward new adventures.
Head of School Jan Pullen reminded her 71 graduates that they had been looking forward to walking across the stage with their diplomas for quite some time. On Saturday morning at the State College of Florida’s Neel Performing Arts Center, their dreams came true.
“Think of how many times you have said in your life ‘When I graduate, oh the possibilities ...’ ” Pullen said. “Now, those thoughts are reality and graduation is here. It is no longer when. It is now.”
“We like to believe that our students are the leaders of tomorrow,“ she continued. “You’ve accomplished so much and you are ready to go.”
According to Upper School Director Andrew Forrester, the graduating class earned a slew of accolades, awards and scholarships, including $6 million in merit scholarships and another $1.1 million in Bright Futures scholarships. The classmates also accrued nearly 10,000 hours of community service.
“What a group of outstanding, achieving, kind, caring individuals who will truly lead us in the future,” he said.
More than half of the graduating seniors will take their college studies out of state. Two of them are set to attend universities in the Czech Republic. Rena Parent, one of the senior speakers, said she was proud of what her fellow students have done and will go on to do, but that statistics don’t tell the whole story of their time together.
“Our story as a class is defined by much more than just numbers and academic performance,” said Parent. “It’s a story filled with school spirit, passion, love, friendship, hard work and determination.”
While each of the graduates will now embark on separate paths, senior speaker Fisher Lindsey noted that they’ll always have one similarity.
“No matter how different, we all have one thing in common — purpose,” Fisher said.
Senior Class President Noah LaBelle and Senior Class Vice President Darragh Harkin announced three senior gifts to the school on behalf of 2019 seniors. Graduates donated a brick pathway leading from the upper school to the rear parking lot, a picnic table and a donation of nearly $1,700 toward the construction of Saint Stephen’s own performing arts center, estimated to cost $6 million.
Guest speaker Samira Hassan, who graduated from Saint Stephen’s in 2009, assured graduates that throughout their years at school, they’ve been given the right foundation to succeed, but it’s always a good idea to be on the lookout for a helping hand.
“The only mistake you can make is not asking for help,” Hassan said. “Find your mentors, upperclassmen, professors, colleagues and learn from them. Learn from those ahead of you who have already done it.”
“There will always be someone smarter and more skilled than you and someone less so,” she added. “However, the knowledge that you obtain on your path to success doesn’t only help you succeed in getting yourself where you want to, but also helps the underclassmen coming behind you.”