AVON PARK — “The highs and lows developed us into the people we are today,” said Amy Schlosser to her fellow Avon Park High School graduates Friday night.

She cataloged all the types of successes students had achieved, in academics, athletics and life.

“But behind all these accomplishments and successes, were so many hardships that tried to challenge that success,” Schlosser said.

Classmates have gone through illness, loss of a loved one, broken homes and abuse, she said.

“But what I’ve also seen, our classmates rise above,” Schlosser said: No matter what the circumstances, they excelled at their goals.

Education is an equalizer, she said, putting everyone on an even playing field, giving all potential. Some classmates have broken family cycles to get education and she sees potential professionals in the Class of 2019: Essentially, she said, the future.

“As we all leave tonight, I pray we would keep our sights on the goals we have set for ourselves. With God’s grace, this would not be the last of a chapter, but the start of a new one,” Schlosser said.

She encouraged her classmates to take the knowledge gained from 13 years of kindergarten through high school and use it to better their communities.

“I pray that we would not just exist in society, but make an impact on it,” Schlosser said. “I pray that we would be truth and strength in a mostly fallen world, but most importantly, I pray that we would always keep God in front of us and follow the path he set for us.”

Decisions determine futures, she said, and she advised her classmates to do things with heart.

“Tonight, you have proved that you have a strong head on your shoulders,” Schlosser said. “You have proved that you can do something that other people cannot.”

She hoped her colleagues could see the growth they have achieved and appreciate the hardships and people that helped them succeed. And if they find that they didn’t achieve what they wanted, “I hope tomorrow will be a fresh start for you,” she said.

Learning from mistakes makes people stronger, she said.

“I want to remind you that from this day forward, there is no longer a timeline on your life,” Schlosser said. While state standards pushed students to reach this point, they now have no deadlines to meet: “It is never too late to start chasing that dream or having a family. Do not compare your life to someone else, because they are not you.”

In closing Schlosser asked her classmates to live lives of valor, honesty and integrity: “Do good, have heart, make a change and God bless.”

Sofia Perry gave the history of the Class of 2019, which started off with trouble as freshmen when classmates playing basketball in the gym hit one of the lights, which fell and shattered all over the floor.

Sophomore year saw a student throw a shoe across a class in front of an administrator. In junior year, during a fire drill, a student scaled a fence and tore pants on the way down.

One classmate always wore a fanny pack, stuffed with McDonald’s cookies.

Another, Xavier Javon Holdman, “X” to everyone, thought he’d give the whole class answers to a test via AirDrop, an instant content sharing mobile phone app.

Sadly, Perry said, the teacher had her AirDrop app turned on and got that message.

She talked of the teachers that got them there, including one who probably still has an ungraded assignment and a jokester teacher who got back at her for skipping class by passing a rumor of an essay due the next day.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brenda Longshore urged the graduating seniors to lean on faith, treasure their family, dream big, ask questions, take risks, never stop trying and never stop learning.

As always, Alan Jay Wildstein of Alan Jay Automotive Network gave a new “Red Devil” red coupe to a deserving student who had gotten all “A”s: Janely Escareno-Garcia, who has continued a streak of all-women recipients among the five Florida Heartland schools in the “Wheels for ‘A’s” program for at least the last year or two.

This year’s recipients of the Gwen Sanders Hill Scholastic Achievement Award, for graduating with both a high school diploma and associates degree from dual enrollment were Lauren Elizabeth Ahrens, Courtney Ellasyn Ball, Kimberly Ann Castillo, Adriana Norma Hernandez, Jeston James Mason, Brianna Lynn Nobles, Kirsten Rama Oca, Amy Nicole Schlosser, Nicholas Matthew Scott and Shaneria Shyann Williams.

Josh Josiah Donald and Marisol Gomez-Mercado received the School Board Citizenship Award. Dah’Quan Traeshawn Braswell received the Senior Honor Student Award.

Also, Braswell and Liliana Marie Fuentes each received a Col. Bailey Medal, presented annually since 1925, originally presented by Col. F. M. K. Bailey, the first superintendent of schools in Highlands County.

Johnny Joseph Morales gave the invocation, Neaychma Mishelly Fogle led the Pledge of Allegiance, Dawn Henderson sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Avon Park High School Jr. ROTC color guard presented the colors and Katelyne Suzanne Bonini gave the benediction.

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