MANATEE — Recent graduates walked to their cars surrounded by family members and friends Thursday evening.
It was done.
Edison Academic Center’s 2009 graduating class of 30 students had received their diplomas.
Now the rest of their lives began.
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For Jenevieve Donovan of Anna Maria, that means launching her professional tennis career.
She had taken off the burgundy class gown and the National Honor Society cord outside the Bayshore Gardens Park and Recreation Center, 6919 26th St. W.
She now stood in the parking lot, with her mother, Julie, posing for pictures with friends and family members.
“It’s a big day. I graduated from high school and now it’s on to the next chapter in my life. For me, that’s tennis,” she said.
Donovan, who was a class speaker at graduation, spoke of the excitement of graduation, but also reflected on her principal, Barbara Iannarelli, who unexpectedly passed away Sunday, she said.
Iannarelli, the private school’s founder, had planned on attending the commencement, according to faculty members. Instead students were offered the chance to reflect on the school Iannarelli built.
“She taught the lesson that service is important. That’s what Barbara spent her life teaching,” said Karen Riley-Love, an English teacher at the school.
Julie Donovan said Iannarelli’s concept for Edison went beyond academics. Students are taught to be autonomous learners.
“She promised them a world class education from the beginning,” Donovan said. “She was also aware life is more than school.”
The school, which has locations in Bradenton and Fort Myers, began eight years ago with 13 students.
Donovan said Jenevieve was one of those children in the first group.
The school allowed her daughter to travel on business trips with her company, she said.
“She had a way of integrating the child’s family, situation, academics and their personal dreams into their school life,” Donovan said.
The school, which now has 186 students between the two locations, often consists of a student body that travels, comes from abroad and wants a specialized learning environment, Riley-Love said. The Bradenton campus is at 7431 Manatee Ave. W.
Some of the students who have attended the school have gone on to become professional athletes in sports including soccer, tennis, basketball and hockey, she said.