It was a sea of blue and gold almost as far as the eye can see.
Parents, family and friends waited, excited, some going 'live' on Facebook, and others laughing, holding cardboard cutouts of graduates' faces as the Charlotte High School Tarpons class of 2019 graduated Thursday night at Lee Civic Center.
CALM BEFORE THE WALK
Stuart Webecke isn't nervous.
Though he said missing people will create a big hole, that hole will be filled very quickly, as he is committed to serve in the U.S. Navy. It's something he said he's wanted to do for his entire life.
Webecke will head off to training in Illinois in July. He's the first in his family to go into the Navy.
"Considering I've been trying to talk recruiters into leaving early, I'm extremely excited."
CUTOUTS IN THE CROWD
Caden Moenning's family and friends are holding cutouts of his face as he walks into the Lee Civic Center for graduation. He didn't know they had brought them, but as he catches a glimpse, he laughs.
His family isn't the only one who had that idea. Tanis Joaquin Gonzales' family have cutouts of his head, too.
"It's awesome, he's the last of four [to graduate high school]," his dad Joaquin Gonzales said.
"I'm relieved for him and happy and excited he gets to go to college," his sister Taiya added.
In the fall he'll attend the University of Colorado-Boulder.
COMMENCEMENT SPEAKERS: Kya Cudjo and Jennifer Lena
Jerrett Keene lives with autism, but his family never uses the word 'disability.'
"We don't ever stop him from doing anything, we just have to make sure he's ready to take on these challenges," his mom, Bobbi Jo said.
His proudest moment of his senior year was when he made it onto the Tarpon football team.
Bobbi Jo said every time the coach reiterated something to the team, Jerrett would go home and reiterate his sentiments in the mirror.
Sometimes, too, she learned those reiterations would include "sentence enhancers" he overheard in the locker room.
Graduation is bittersweet for him, Bobbi Jo said, because his grandpa died three nights earlier.
"I lost one generation, but (I'm) bringing up another generation," she said.
ROOTS TO COME HOME TO
"Charlotte High has given us wings to fly and roots to come home to," said student speaker Kya Cudjo.
"It's a bittersweet moment since most of us lived here our entire lives," she said.
THE REAL TEST
Jennifer Lena said the most important lessons she learned in high school, she learned from her classmates.
"There are days you're not gonna win the game, despite how loud the crowd is cheering," Lena said, "Take these moments of failure to fuel your future."
Lena said she will miss Friday night football and walking down the hallways and knowing everyone's name.
"I hope you took good notes, Tarpons, because the tests are going to be for the rest of our lives," she told fellow graduates.