Warne Lewis stood Friday in the second floor of IMG Academy’s Fieldhouse. In about an hour, the 18-year-old soccer athlete would graduate alongside 207 other students.
The mood was chaotic as fellow graduates chatted and adjusted their blue robes. Several snapped selfies while others peered down at their phones to send text messages or post statuses on Facebook.
“I’m a little nervous but I’m excited to finally graduate after four years of high school,” he said with a shy smile.
When Lewis learned he was the 2016 class’ salutatorian and that his roommate Teo Pollini was valedictorian, the Bradenton resident said they set out to speak together.
“We just kind of went for a short and sweet speech that really showed how we felt about our time here,” Lewis said. “I’m probably going to miss the professionalism and just the day-to-day life — how we train every morning and go to school in the afternoon and just really get the most out of the day.”
Lewis and Pollini spoke in front of hundreds in the crowd about the impact IMG Academy left on their lives, a theme that recurred with fellow graduates Nandini Das of India and Beatriz Sofia Rodriguez Cubas of Venezuela, who delivered a senior reflection together. Das and Rodriguez Cubas championed the school’s diversity, and thanked their families in their native languages.
“Every year we sat on those bleachers,” Rodriguez Cubas said, “looking forward to the day that we’ll be on the receiving end of the applause.”
The program included a presentation of several awards and senior reflections. It was also special night for IMG Academy Headmaster Richard Odell, who retires this year.
Number of graduates: 208
Graduating class: 16th
Speakers: IMG Academy Headmaster Richard Odell, Valedictorian Teo Pollini; Salutatorian Warne Lewis; educator Jill Jaksetic; graduates Nandini Das, Beatríz Sofía Rodríguez Cubas, and Katarina Kozarov.
Shining moment: IMG Academy graduate Katarina Kozarov received the George Garnett Spirit Award and delivered a moving speech of how much she admired the spirit of the late Garnett, a technology specialist at IMG Academy who was killed by his step-brother in 2012
Interesting: This year’s IMG Academy graduating class came from about 40 countries. At the beginning of the ceremony, a representative from each country welcomed family and friends in their native languages.
Best quote: “We have come together as one, and this moment is ours.” — IMG Academy graduate Beatriz Sofia Rodriguez Cubas