Class of 2018
“Your future awaits you. Your time is now!”
And with those words from North Fort Myers High School Principal Debbie Diggs, the caps flew in the air and 415 graduates ended one journey and embarked on an entirely new one.
But perhaps no other class in the school’s history is better equipped for that future than the Class of 2018, according to the numbers.
The class had a weighted grade-point average of 3.82. Of the 415 grads, 195 of them had a GPA of 4.0 or higher and 64 had a GPA over 5.0.
Already, 42 of them had earned their Cambridge AICE diplomas (with even more expected after testing this week), and the class combined to put in more than 15,000 hours of community service.
Diggs said this group is a special one that never ceases to amaze her, and that the chemistry of this class was especially unique.
“With all they’re involved in, they’re just super involved in giving back to their community,” Diggs said. “This is a very giving and community-oriented group. They give on their own and ask to help and look to their fellow classmates. They’re always looking for how they can make things better.”
As the minutes dwindled to that moment, students felt a wide range of emotions, but were also excited to move forward.
“These four years were well worth it. I’m looking forward to the journey. It’s not the end, but the beginning,” said Mandy Lehman. “I’m going to miss the hallways. There’s art everywhere and there’s a welcoming factor that I don’t think any other school has.”
“I’m really excited to start a new chapter and see what’s going to happen in the future,” said Gabriella Ruiz. “These four years have gone by really fast.”
Mikayla Zezula, who thanks to the alphabet would have to wait second-to-last for her diploma (student government president Hannah Zinn would be last), smiled at the little delay.
“Either way, we’re all graduating so I’m happy. I’m anxious and nervous, but I’m ready. I’ve been waiting for a long time,” Zezula said. “These last four years I’m like a totally different person. High school has matured me and prepared me for after high school.”
What was also special about this group is how it persevered the first few years in spite of much turnover at the top, leaving every year with some feeling of uncertainty. School board member Steve Teuber mentioned that as he oversaw his final graduating class walk that aisle.
“The first three years you played ‘Who’s the Principal,’ but you’ve been the catalyst that’s made North Fort Myers No. 1 in county schools,” Teuber said. “This is the last of 13 graduations, and it’s fitting that the last one is the best.”
As with many graduation speeches, they were filled with words of wisdom by their fellow students. Class president Makenzi Walden advised her fellow classmates to not settle for mediocrity.
“Set a goal, and when you’ve decided on it, make that goal happen. Don’t ever settle,” Walden said. “Know that you’re only defined by the walls you build yourself, so don’t let present circumstances hold you back. The future is now.”
Uriel Agramonte kept his speech a secret from his family, who he then thanked for their guidance and love in and out of the classroom. He also had some advice to give his fellow graduates.
“Do your best and live every moment, for you will never have the same opportunity as you do right now. We’re not guaranteed tomorrow,” Agramonte said. “Do the right thing for you. Find your passion and pursue it. Time can be our greatest ally.”
Isabella Montoya-Bedoya said she and her classmates have had 2,340 days of school and survived homework, end-of-year tests and hours of “Starbuck’s Study Sessions.”
“We’ve seen it all, and while this is a celebration, it’s only a moment in time of our entire lives,” Montoya-Bedoya said. “You have to go out there and give it your all. Do what truly inspires you. Just do it.”
The range of emotions afterward ran the gamut.
“I feel the same. I knew I was going to graduate since I was little,” said Marli Sollitto. “I’m going to miss the security guards, they’re a lot of fun.”
“It’s one of those surreal moment where it comes up it’s a big moment, but when it happens you think this is forever,” said Tim Brett. “You get that diploma and tears want to come out and you hold in that excitement.”