HUDSON — At the end of May, while their classmates marched across the stage at Hudson High, Chris Jennett, Anthony Siciliano and Melvin Velez sat at home, barred from their graduation.
Their senior prank of taking over the school public address system got them in hot water. And no amount of protesting or pleading could sway school officials into letting the well-liked boys don their caps and gowns and take their place with the Class of 2009.
Seven months later, the three young men have moved on to new stages in life, proving to themselves as much as to others that although missing out on commencement mattered at the moment, it didn't make or break the future.
Siciliano, 18, now attends Pasco-Hernando Community College as a full-time student and baseball player.
Studying, conditioning and practice take up much of his time. He hopes to learn by January if he will make the starting team.
He also wants to make sure he makes it through his sports management degree program. His experience at Hudson High is part of the motivation.
"It's more inspiration to make sure I graduate from college so I can walk," Siciliano said.
Velez, 19, started going to paramedic school at Keiser Career College in October. He expects to earn his EMT certificate in February, his paramedic license a year later and then his associate degree within eight months of that.
His plans to become a teacher were fairly well dashed by the way he felt he was treated in his final days at Hudson High.
"I'm doing this and I enjoy it more," Velez said.
He looks back at his missed graduation as the ancient past.
"It's just one day out of a whole lifetime," said Velez, who has distanced himself from most friends and activities from high school. "I've got a whole lot of better things to do."
Siciliano shares the view that the past is the past. But he has tried to "take the positive" from what was not his most shining moment.
"It was a real test of who my true friends are," he said, noting how many members of his senior class stood up for the group. "I remember all the memories I had there, and I'm making new ones now."
Jennett, 18, did not respond to requests for an interview. Siciliano said his friend, who many called "Cool Chris," is studying at PHCC and working as a DJ and as a boat captain.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.