Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Calyx Schenecker, Noah Kushner remembered at King High graduation

TAMPA — The graduates weren't supposed to bring anything to the ceremony but themselves and their caps and gowns. So in the days leading up to the King High School graduation ceremony, and the night before at a senior banquet, they quietly disseminated fistfuls of plastic loops, symbols of what their class had lost.

There were two bracelets for Calyx Schenecker, who would have graduated Tuesday had she not died in one of the most shocking killings Tampa has seen. Her mother, Julie Schenecker, stands accused of killing Calyx, 16, and her brother, Beau, 13, in 2011. The bracelets were green, the girl's name branded in the signature font of her beloved Harry Potter.

There was one bracelet for Noah Kushner, who took his own life at 16 the same year Calyx died. His story did not garner as much attention, his friends said, perhaps because suicide is so complicated to talk about. But they wanted to remember him, too, how his feet seemed to tap dance below the desk during homeroom, how he carried a tackle box of favorite things around campus. The bracelets in Noah's honor were blue and said "Tacklebox."

Even though they weren't supposed to, the students teetering on too-high heels and straining to remember how to layer honor cords brought bracelets into the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall to pass out at tables where they perched before the ceremony.

They knew some things defied order.

"Do you have one for Noah?" Justine Cardenas asked Tatiana Henry.

One of Calyx's three best friends, Henry, 17, shared in the willowy beauty's love of Harry Potter. Cardenas, 17, was friends with Noah. But she remembered Calyx from class, how they playfully sparred over what was better — Twilight or Harry Potter.

Lines and cliques had blurred some time ago. When you are a teenager and you lose one of your own, lunchroom drama withers with the discovery that people are impermanent.

Henry handed Cardenas a blue band, which she layered on top of her green ones.

"It's weird," said Cardenas. "You go into high school thinking, 'I can't wait to grow up.' But something like this happens and it kind of forces you to grow up."

The students filed into the auditorium, tassels to the right. Most had been accepted to college, and more than a dozen would join the military. Calyx's three best friends were set to scatter, to Duke University, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Florida.

If still alive, what would their friends be doing? The graduates couldn't help wondering.

"He'd probably still be running around, making up stories," said Noah's friend, Lauren Lange. "He loved to write."

Calyx dreamed of going to Thailand to study elephant training, or maybe packing up and trying a dreamer's hand at New York City.

"She was very adventuresome," Henry said. "She'd be doing something awesome that we'd all be interested in hearing about."

Senior class president Jacob Wasserman stepped to the podium. Calyx's father, Parker Schenecker, looked on from the crowd.

"There have been somber experiences here that have led to more lessons for us all outside the classroom," Wasserman said. "Many see tragedies as things that only happen to others, but that is not reality. Reality is what we experienced in our years at King. Our experiences are not things high school students deserve or expect. But our experiences are important and shape who we are now. Life outside the security of childhood is filled with adversity. The Class of 2013 has lived this adversity firsthand. We have experienced the worst manifestations of hardship and tragedy. However, we grew together and helped one another learn to endure."

One by one, the students walked across the stage with bands of blue and green peeking from their black gowns. They took their diplomas and moved forward.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at or (813) 226-3394.

Calyx Schenecker, Noah Kushner remembered at King High graduation 06/04/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 11:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Reporter says Republican candidate in Montana body-slammed him (w/video)


    HELENA, Mont. — Witnesses said the Republican candidate for Montana's sole congressional seat body-slammed a reporter Wednesday, the day before the polls close in the nationally watched special election.

    Greg Gianforte, right, receives congratulations from a supporter in Helena, Mont., in March. [Associated Press]
  2. Culpepper falls just short on 'Survivor' finale

    Human Interest

    In the end, Tampa lawyer Brad Culpepper fell just short, and the ex-Tampa Bay Buccaneer lost Survivor: Game Changers and the $1 million prize to Sarah Lacina, a police officer from Iowa.

  3. Families dispute claims that slain Tampa Palms roommates shared neo-Nazi beliefs


    TAMPA — Andrew Oneschuk never liked making small talk on the phone, his father said, but the last time the two spoke, something seemed off.

    Andrew Oneschuk and Jeremy Himmelman lived in a Tampa Palms apartment with Devon Arthurs and Brandon Russell. Oneschuk and Himmelman reportedly planned to move out.
  4. Brad Culpepper makes it to final 3 on Survivor, but jury picks Sarah

    The Feed

    UPDATE, WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Tampa's Brad Culpepper make it to the final 3 on Survivor, but jurors chose Sarah as the winner of the $1 million.

    Original report follows:

    "The Tables Have Turned" - Brad Culpepper, Tai Trang and Hali Ford on the fourth episode of SURVIVOR: Game Changers on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Jeffrey Neira/CBS Entertainment
  5. Steven Souza Jr. snaps out of slump as Rays defeat Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — After Tuesday's shutout loss to the Angels, Steven Souza Jr. stood in front of his locker and talked about his need to contribute to the offense.

    Tampa Bay Rays catcher Jesus Sucre (45) hugs right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (20) in the dugout after his two run home run in the second inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, May 24, 2017.