MANATEE — It was an international affair for Pendleton School graduates Friday as students greeted family and friends in their native tongues to kick off the graduation ceremony for IMG Academies student-athletes.
A Manatee Community College auditorium packed with excited friends and family heard greetings from Pendleton’s diverse student body, including students from Mexico, Serbia, Russia, Germany, Thailand and India.
The ceremony marked Pendleton’s ninth graduating class. The school’s headmaster, Richard Odell, praised the school’s diversity. “We have 114 graduates here today from all around the world. They will be attending 122 colleges and earned $1 million in scholarships,” said Odell.
Graduate Alexa Rancourt, winner of this year’s Carpe Diem award, spoke of her growth in finding a way to balance the vigorous schedule of sports training at IMG and studies at Pendleton.
“I have learned to be independent and self-assured,” she said.
Students and faculty praised the parents in the crowd for their efforts in sending their children to IMG. As each graduate walked the stage to receive a diploma, they were also given two roses.
Once all the graduates’ names were read, Odell told the students to walk into the crowd and give the roses to the two most special people in their lives. The graduates draped in blue gowns hugged and kissed their parents, many of whom had tears in their eyes, as they transferred their roses.
Pendleton’s winner of the Outstanding Educator Award, Charles Kennedy, praised his students for their accomplishments and spoke of another graduation they achieved.
“From now on when you see me, please call me Charles like my friends do,” he said.
The graduates also passed the torch to Pendleton’s class of 2010 during the ceremony, as graduate Jordan Rizzo presented a check to junior Casey Mulholland, which will be used to buy a fine rug emblazoned with the Pendleton crest on behalf of the 2009 class.
Mulholland got choked up as he said goodbye to his friends a grade above him.
“I love all you guys, you guys mean the world to me,” Mulholland said.
The ceremony was not only a celebration of the past, but also a reminder that Pendleton’s students are also looking at the future. Graduate Eduardo Chavez will be heading to the University of New Mexico on a full scholarship to play golf.
“This is a good, good day. I am looking forward to moving on,” he said.
Robert Napper, reporter, can be reached at 708-7024.