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Class of 2015: Graduations step off this weekend

By Staff | May 29, 2015

The Class of 2015 will close a chapter in their life this weekend as they accept their diplomas.

The Lee County School District and the City of Cape Coral Charter School Authority are hosting graduation ceremonies on Saturday and Sunday for the thousands of students anticipated to walk the stage. The Alico Arena, Harborside Event Center and Lee Civic Center are the district’s locations.

The Cape’s charter students will graduate Saturday at 10 a.m. in the gym at Oasis High School.

“We’re looking forward to a really exciting day,” Charter Superintendent Nelson Stephenson said Thursday, adding that staff, parents and the community worked hard to prepare the youths for the next step.

“We know these students are going to do big things,” he said.

This year, 165 seniors will graduate from the city’s charter system.

“Approximately 30 more than we had last year, so we are growing exponentially,” Stephenson said.

About 500-plus students in total have graduated over the last couple of years.

School district officials reported Thursday that 6,169 diplomas were printed for its graduates.

Lee County Public Schools is the ninth largest district in Florida and the 33rd largest district in the United States, according to its website. It educates over 85,000 students in kindergarten to 12th grade.

The following graduations are planned for area public schools:

n Mariner High School: Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Harborside Event Center

n Cape Coral High School: Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Alico Arena

n Island Coast High School: Saturday at 7 p.m. at Lee Civic Center

n Ida S. Baker High School: Saturday at 7 p.m. at Alico Arena

n North Fort Myers High School: Sunday at 7 p.m. at Alico Arena

Officials warned motorists that traffic will be backed up around the listed locations.

According to Stephenson, the charter students will spend Friday morning practicing for Saturday’s graduation ceremony. Each student has been given five or six guest tickets for the event.

“We’re also going to stream it live (online) as well and that will be posted on the website,” he said.

Stephenson explained that renting a large venue for graduation can be costly.

“We don’t want to limit anybody to come to our graduation,” he said of steaming it. “So we thought, what a great way to highlight all the great things that are happening and just a great way to reach out.”

“This is the first time that we’ve done that and we’re really excited,” Stephenson added.

People can also access the school district’s graduation ceremonies online.

High-quality videos of the charter ceremony will be available for purchase later on.

As of Thursday, the charter students had secured approximately $1.6 million in scholarships.

“Which is a huge number for us with that number of kids,” Stephenson said. “Also, we believe that there’s more out there that students have not reported yet – that is just what’s been confirmed.”

School district officials did not have a scholarship figure for its graduates on Thursday.

Stephenson noted that one student in particular earned a highly valued scholarship, the (Bill) Gates Millennium Scholarship. Anisha Pednekar is one of 1,000 recipients – from 56,000 applicants.

“She’s an amazing kid, so we’re very proud of her,” he said.

The scholarship pays for four years of college, with a master’s program also possible.

“It’s a really big deal,” Stephenson said. “It’s amazing for this student.”

There are about 3,200 students currently enrolled in the city’s charter system, with more than 700 registered at the high school. The system was founded 10 years ago this year with just 150 students.

“You have to live in the Cape to go to our schools,” he said.

For more information on the City of Cape Coral Charter School Authority, or to watch Saturday’s graduation ceremony steaming online, visit the system’s site at: www.capecharterschools.org.

For the Lee County School District, visit: www.leeschools.net/video/graduation.

Oasis High School is at 3519 Oasis Blvd.

The Alico Arena is at 10501 S. FGCU Blvd. in Fort Myers.

The Harborside Event Center is at 1375 Monroe St. in Fort Myers

The Lee Civic Center is at 11831 Bayshore Road in North Fort Myers.