She painted her lips red, slipped into a lacy black dress and pulled on 5-inch, patent leather Christian Louboutin pumps.
"These," she said, shouting amid the Mahaffey Theater crowd, "are my special graduation heels."
And Krystle Hoshowski, 25, strutted, literally, into the next phase of her life: Hard-working, fashion-loving University of South Florida graduate with a bachelor's degree in business management and a minor in health care.
The auditorium was wall-to-wall packed Sunday evening with cheering grads and their whooping, sometimes crying, supporters for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg's 2013 commencement ceremony. At the campus, 454 students received bachelor's or master's degrees.
Hoshowski's mom, step-dad, three brothers and best friend (who also happened to be her photographer) arrived before 6 p.m. to group-hug her. Alongside peers in the obligatory caps and gowns, she expressed no fear about tomorrow, the job search, the interviews.
"I've had three professors go over my resume," she said, grinning. "It's perfect. I'm so ready."
On stage, USF president Judy Genshaft congratulated this year's roughly 6,000 graduates from throughout the USF system who, she said, represented 50 states and 92 nations. The youngest is 19. The oldest is 79. Twenty-four graduates are commissioned officers in the armed forces, she said, and 140 are U.S. veterans.
"This is indeed a day," Genshaft said, "to celebrate your hard work, careful planning and unwavering determination."
Watching from his seat, Cecil Fountain, 27, wore a gray ribbon on his gown that read: "USFSP Sustainability." The Mississippi native just earned his MBA and plans to someday, somewhere run his own business.
"I'll do it in a sustainable, responsible manner," he said, "and I want to be rich."
"But really, I'm ready to have this over with."
In the theater's last ground row, holding a commencement brochure, a quiet father scanned the auditorium for his daughter.
"Is that her?" he whispered aloud.
Christian Lorenz, 24, graduated with a master's degree in child psychology, he said.
"I'm proud, so proud," said Tom Gardener, 46, who runs a lawn care business in St. Cloud, south of Orlando "She has done everything I've never done. She went far and beyond every expectation."
Danielle Paquette can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4224.