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There were tears during the slide show and tears at the presentation of flowers, but sunny smiles otherwise reigned Saturday morning as Cedar Key seniors walked into the gymnasium as students and skipped and danced out as alumni.
The class of 2008 sent 16 seniors into the world this week, led by salutatorian Jaclyn Stefani. Eight scholarship recipients took home more than $6,000 in special awards, plus Florida Bright Futures scholarships which pay up to 75 percent to 100 percent of students' in-state tuition.
Principal Sue Ice congratulated the class on their achievement and wished them the best opportunities and the strength to pursue them in the next stage of their lives.
Stefani, whose strongly-defined ambitions include a career as an Army nurse, laced her commencement address with take-no-prisoners quotes from one of the greatest entrepreneurs of this generation, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
"Life is not fair; get used to it," she began.
Stefani, who will probably face a tougher boss than many of her classmates, gave this salute to commitment and preparation, saying, "Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself."
Although every senior will be glad to move on with the next phase of their lives, each probably harbored a secret wish that the fun and camaraderie might last a little longer. Stefani and her giddy classmatees smiled, laughed, wiped tears away and laughed again as awards were presented and students' achievements were honored.
The packed bleachers in the Sharks' gymnasium was ample evidence that nothing makes Cedar Key prouder than to send a bunch of winners out in style.
Congratulations Cedar Key Class of 2008. Your town is proud of you.