Honors Graduate ceremony celebrates seniors


photo by Faith Marino

Students sit along the track at the Sam Momary Stadium, waiting to be called up onto the stage. Chairs were socially distanced and all attendants wore masks.

Walking across a stage in front of hundreds beneath the sweltering sun on a Wednesday night is not a situation seniors would normally expect to find themselves in. However, on April 14 at 6:30 p.m., roughly 180 seniors were invited to a special Honors Graduate ceremony at the Sam Momary Stadium to commemorate earning 4.0 and over cumulative GPAs — and, despite the atypical conditions, many greatly appreciated the experience.

“I didn’t expect a separate celebration for being an Honors Grad, so it was a pleasant surprise to be invited,” senior Haleigh D’Amico said. “I think the ceremony went well. It was short and sweet.”

The ceremony is usually held in conjunction with Scholarship Awards Night, which will be held April 26 this year, but due to the high volume of honors graduates and coronavirus precautions, the events were split. Traditionally inside the auditorium, administration moved the Honors Graduate ceremony outside to safely accommodate for the amount of attendees. Guests sat up in the bleachers, while students sat along the track in assigned chairs that were adequately spaced apart.

While the regular graduation ceremony on May 14 will also be held in a football stadium, a large difference between the ceremonies is that the honors graduates sat directly in front of the stage. Assistant principal Christy Tibbitts-Bryce thought that it was also special because the students’ college, major and a quote of their choosing was announced as they walked across the stage.

“It’s different in that it’s a little more personal. It’s not just trying to get 600 people across the stage as fast as we can,” Tibbitts-Bryce said. “There’s a little more focus on them.”

To top off the night, once all students received their medals, the Top Ten students — those with the ten highest GPAs out of the class of 2021 — were honored on stage with plaques to recognize their academic success. Winners of the National Merit Scholarship were also honored, but will receive more notable recognition at Scholarship Awards Night. 

Valedictorian Alex Tao was glad to have a night to celebrate the hard work he and his peers devoted to their high school careers.

“I’m happy that the effort I put into my classes paid off,” Tao said. “And it was indeed worth it: I got into one of my first choice schools.”

The class of 2021 currently boasts the largest amount of Honors Graduates that Hagerty has seen, at over 180. It also has the most National Merit winners in Seminole County. But, while the Honors Graduate Ceremony went well, seniors are even more excited for their real graduation in May.

“I think that it will feel different… because then, officially, I will be a high school graduate,” D’Amico said. “I am glad that I was invited [to the Honors Graduate Ceremony]. However, it will feel more complete being with the rest of my class.”