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Dunnellon seniors complete first journey in life

By Jeff Bryan

Jeff Bryan


Riverland News

OCALA — With the threat of inclement weather in the forecast Friday night, the Marion County Public School District made the choice to switch the Dunnellon High School Graduation Ceremony from Ned Love Field to the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion.

In doing so, it allowed the Class of 2018’s 213 graduates, school personnel, families and other special guests, to remain safe and dry while avoiding a postponement in commencement ceremonies.

Despite the change in its traditional venue for its annual gradation ceremonies, Dunnellon High School seniors didn’t let it dampen their spirits about embarking on the next chapter of their lives as they prepare for college, vocational training, the military or entering the workforce.

Whatever your path might be college, military or entering the workforce, Principal Wade Martin said, can be achieved.

“Anything in life you want, you can have, you just have to be willing to work hard for it,” Martin said after sharing a series of inspirational quotes with graduates. “If it was easy, then everybody would be doing it.”

While preparing her speech, all co-valedictorian Andrea Iturrino-Cotto could think about is how the celebration was both happy and sad.

“It can be a bittersweet celebration,” she explained to her fellow graduates, “because it encompasses two major things in life: the loss of innocence and the joy of newfound freedom. We as a class are now let loose in the world with our wits and naive perspective of life.”

Although some of us have already experienced some things that have matured some more than others, we haven’t experienced as many things as parents, grandparents, aunts uncles and older siblings, she said.

“There is joy, because we earned ourselves diplomas,” she added. “We can look across a sea of people and say we made it. We have no control what is to come for us. There is no telling what our future holds, but today, with absolute certainty, we have the ability to call ourselves high school graduates.”

Today, the seniors are finally leaving the nest, said Scott Mooney, co-valedictorian and one of 10 students to earn his associate’s degree.

“That bird may feel, I’m sure, afraid to make the jump,” he said. “Today, this class is very much like that bird. Four years ago, we were just children, walking through the doors of Dunnellon High School, struggling to find our classrooms and make relationships that will last forever.

Now, we are standing here, maybe just as nervous as the first day of school, ready to leave the nest and soar to our highest potentials. We have made so many memories with one goal in mind: to make our mark on the world around us. Let’s make the most of our opportunities.”

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Heidi Maier reminded graduates the future is theirs and they are in control.

“Don’t be apathetic and don’t wait for change to happen,” she challenged them. “Continue your stride and your passion, whatever that may be. Inspired passion will put you at the top, but passion without purpose will keep you where you are at right now.

“There is a purpose for you, there is a bigger purpose. You deserve to give the world your talents.”


* VALEDICTORIANS: Andrea Iturrino-Cotto and Scott Mooney.


* FAST FACTS: 54 percent of the graduates finished school with 3.0 grade point average or higher; 22 students had a 4.0 gpa or higher; and, 10 students graduated with both their high school diploma and associate’s degree.

* MOTTO: “Our lives are before us. Our past is behind us. Our memories are forever with us.” – Unknown.

* SONG: “Unwritten,” by Natasha Bedingfield.

* FLOWER: Stargazer Lily.