They started in 2004 as the sixth-largest freshman class in Pinellas County's history, more than 12,000 strong. Since then, many moved away or dropped out. Some will take longer than usual to finish high school.
But about 6,800 of them made it through in the traditional four years and will graduate in ceremonies next week across the region.
Among them are Andrea Boykins, a Dixie Hollins High student who turned around her school career after failing all of her ninth-grade classes. On Tuesday at Tropicana Field, she will become the first member of her family to graduate. She plans to be pharmacist.
Wednesday night at Lakewood High, valedictorian William Skinner and salutatorian Katherine Harbin will deliver their traditional speeches and the audience in the school stadium will include two parents with more than a passing interest in education. Skinner's mom, Katrina VanTassel-Skinner, is a Lakewood teacher. Harbin's mom is Pinellas School Board member Janet Clark.
In Palm Harbor, officials might want to check the water. Six sets of twins will graduate Wednesday from Palm Harbor University High in a ceremony at the Sun Dome in Tampa. They are Courtney and Joshua DeVoll, Amy and Jessica Ferguson, Elaine and Georgina Karakasilis, Anastasia and Zefi Malissovas, Alexa and Hannah Ralicki, and Alexander and Anastasia Rigopoulos.
At Ruth Eckerd Hall on Wednesday afternoon, Pinellas Park High student Heather Young will receive a special diploma in a wheelchair. The victim of a long-ago brain injury who came close to death several times this winter, she communicates using an alphabet chart to spell out words.
That evening, St. Petersburg High will grant a diploma to Daren Miller, the four-year class president and a student in the International Baccalaureate program who is headed for Duke University. According to Pinellas school officials, he is the only student in the U.S. to receive awards from three of the nation's most prestigious scholarship programs — the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, the Gates Millennium Scholars program and the Ron Brown Scholar Program.
Below is a schedule of next week's Pinellas high school graduations.
• Boca Ciega, 4 p.m. Tuesday, Tropicana Field. Number graduating: 406.
• Clearwater, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Bright House Field. Number graduating: 370.
• Countryside, 6 p.m. Wednesday, USF Sun Dome. Number graduating: 425.
• Dixie Hollins, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Tropicana Field. Number graduating: 330.
• Dunedin, 9 a.m. Wednesday, Ruth Eckerd Hall. Number graduating: 450.
• East Lake, 10 a.m. Wednesday, USF Sun Dome. Number graduating: 538.
• Gibbs, 7 p.m. Monday, Tropicana Field. Number graduating: 400.
• Lakewood, 7 p.m. Wednesday, school stadium. Number graduating: 341.
• Largo, 8 a.m. Thursday, school stadium. Number graduating: 465.
• Northeast, 8 a.m. Wednesday, school stadium. Number graduating: 350.
• Osceola, 9 a.m. Wednesday, Bright House Field. Number graduating: 350.
• Palm Harbor University, 2 p.m. Wednesday, USF Sun Dome. Number graduating: 525.
• Pinellas Park, 2 p.m. Wednesday, Ruth Eckerd Hall. Number graduating: 425.
• St. Petersburg, 8 p.m. Wednesday, school stadium. Number graduating: 500.
• Seminole, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Bright House Field. Number graduating: 450.
• Tarpon Springs, 7 p.m. Wednesday, school stadium. Number graduating: 350.
• Bayside, 11 a.m. Wednesday, school gym. Number graduating: 110.
• Nina Harris School, 6:30 p.m. Monday, school. Number graduating: 21.
• Paul B. Stephens School, 7 p.m. Monday, school. Number graduating: 14.