Education

IMG Academy Class of 2019 graduates highlight importance of sacrifice to find success

IMG coach fights emotion to introduce son as valedictorian

IMG Academy golf coach Kevin Collins fought back tears in an emotional speech introducing his son Kieren as the Class of 2019 valedictorian at the school's 19th annual commencement ceremony on June 7, 2019 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.
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IMG Academy golf coach Kevin Collins fought back tears in an emotional speech introducing his son Kieren as the Class of 2019 valedictorian at the school's 19th annual commencement ceremony on June 7, 2019 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

As IMG Academy’s 2019 graduates find their own paths to success, each will be connected on one common thread — the sacrifice it took to get there.

Bradenton’s sports training school hosted its 19th annual commencement ceremony at Van Wezel Performing Hall, awarding diplomas to nearly 270 high school seniors. The work they’ve put in is sure to guide them well into the future, said Head of School Chris Locke.

“We strive to ensure that you’re ready to succeed in whatever endeavor you decide to pursue,” he told the graduates.

Making it across the stage took a “willingness to work hard and the perseverance to push through when most others would’ve given up,” Locke said.

In her address to the ceremony audience, salutatorian Julianna Stureman highlighted that dedication.

“Coming to IMG has been one of the best decisions of my life, but it’s also been a huge sacrifice. Every athlete knows what sacrifice is,” Stureman said. “We live it every day.

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Nathan Bettger, a soccer student athlete from Bradenton, welcomes the audience to the 19th annual IMG Academy commencement ceremony on Friday night at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. Ryan Callihan rcallihan@bradenton.com

“But here at IMG, we understand sacrifice better than most. We leave our homes, our friends, our communities and, most importantly, our families,” she continued. “We sacrifice all this for the chance to be the best that we can be.”

Stureman thanked her parents for the opportunity to follow her dreams.

Kevin Collins, an IMG Academy employee for 19 years, said it was a dream come true to introduce his son as valedictorian of 2019 class.

Collins fought back tears as he told the crowd how his son Kieren had been born right into the IMG family.

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Kevin Collins, an IMG Academy golf coach, fights back tears as he introduces his son Kieren Collins as the Class of 2019 valedictorian. Ryan Callihan rcallihan@bradenton.com

“IMG isn’t just a school that Kieren chose. It’s part of the very fabric of who he is,” Collins said of his son. “Perhaps because of this, there is no one I have seen in my years that has better personified the values that we preach or better illustrate what it means to be a student-athlete.”

Kieren reminded his fellow graduates that the hard work that brought them to the stage is based on the will they formed long ago, probably as little children, imitating famous athletes in their living room.

“Class of 2019, let me tell you this: The fact that all of you are still here is a testament to that kid, who’s a strong voice in all of you,” he said. “There are people that couldn’t make it today, people who couldn’t take the grind, people who couldn’t stay focused on the dream.”

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An IMG Academy graduate accepts her diploma at the 19th annual commencement ceremony on Friday night. Ryan Callihan rcallihan@bradenton.com

“If you take advantage of what IMG has to offer, you’ll be a better student, a better athlete, but most importantly, a better person,” said Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, winner of the George Garnett Spirit Award.”

Locke said the 2019 graduates were accepted to more than 160 universities and were able to raise more than $10,000 for the leukemia and lymphoma society.

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