More than 350 Port Charlotte High School seniors were adjusting their hair, moving their caps and sashes, fidgeting back and forth as they prepared to march into the Lee Civic Center Wednesday night for graduation.
Some were nervous and others were excited about finally reaching the moment they've been working years for.
Inside, family and friends waited eagerly, some holding flowers, others holding up their phones, waiting to catch the moment their kid walked up the aisle.
CALM BEFORE THE WALK
Students waiting to march into the auditorium were experiencing a range of emotions.
"I honestly didn't think I'd make it this far," said Nathan Berfanger.
He made a commitment to enlist in the U.S. Navy after graduation. To make sure he met his requirements before graduation, he had to complete four online classes in less than two months.
CLASS COLORS: RED, WHITE AND BLACK
HARD WORK PAYS OFF
Samantha DiBene said, "I'm really excited. I worked so hard the past four years, it all paid off."
Her favorite part of senior year was volleyball senior night, with all of her friends and family in attendance.
"That's when it kind of hit me I was a senior and will be going away soon."
In the fall, DiBene will attend Indian River State College in Fort Pierce, where she will study health science.
HIGH-FIVES AND HANDSHAKES
Rodney Taylor, who teaches physical education at Port Charlotte High School was proud of his students. As they walked down the aisle to their seats, he gave each one a high five.
"I do that as they walk in, and as they walk out," he said. "There's 10 seniors that are on my baseball team. I make sure to shake each one of their hands."
CLASS ADVISOR: Matina Pulliam
PORT CHARLOTTE HIGH HISTORY
Principal Lou Long said he's partial to this group of students, because it's his first group he's spent four years with as principal.
Twenty-seven students signed scholarships to play collegiate athletics, Long said. Together the class of 2019 clocked over 28,000 community service hours. The class earned over 135 industry certifications, the most in the school's history, Long told the audience at the Lee Civic Center.
"I could not have asked for a better class," he said.
STUDENT COMMENCEMENT SPEAKERS
Zoe Ortiz, Faith Price, Vance Herbener, Sabrina Salovitz
YOU DON'T HAVE TO HAVE IT FIGURED OUT
Four students spoke at the commencement ceremony, though more than 20 auditioned for the opportunity.
All students had unique perspectives about their high school experience, but shared common themes: the unique culture and diversity of Port Charlotte High School.
Zoe Ortiz said PCHS has a strong sense of community and school pride, a diverse student body, and the class of 2019 is an accomplished bunch.
"One of the most important lessons I learned in high school, is that it's OK not to be OK, it's OK not to have it all figured out," she said.
PEOPLE HAVE VALUE
Sabrina Salovitz said PCHS has taught her "the value of people," which is more than any teacher can teach about math or science. "We know how to be a friend to one another," she said.
"I know I'm a smarter, kinder, braver person than I ever would have been," she continued, had she not attended PCHS.