Friday, February 23, 2018
Education

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 [email protected] or (813) 226-3394.

 
Comments
After Parkland, another plea for rumor control: ‘This is not a joke’ (w/video)

After Parkland, another plea for rumor control: ‘This is not a joke’ (w/video)

ST. PETERSBURG — The mayor and the police chief came to Northeast High on Thursday to warn students about the dangers of circulating rumors of school safety threats on social media.While they were there, one of those unfounded rumors popped up on Fac...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Collards, ribs and Kool-Aid: Black History Month menu at NYU stirs controversy

Collards, ribs and Kool-Aid: Black History Month menu at NYU stirs controversy

NEW YORK — On Tuesday, a dining hall at New York University advertised a special meal in honor of Black History Month. On the menu? Barbecue ribs, cornbread, collard greens, and two beverages with racist connotations: Kool-Aid and watermelon-flavored...
Published: 02/22/18
Arming teachers? Some officials like the idea, but many educators don’t (w/video)

Arming teachers? Some officials like the idea, but many educators don’t (w/video)

With high school students from Parkland in the Capitol this week advocating for gun control, the bill that would have allowed superintendents and principals to designate trained employees who can carry concealed weapons at school didn’t get heard as ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
How will Douglas High students go back to class? There’s now a plan in place.

How will Douglas High students go back to class? There’s now a plan in place.

When students return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High for the first time next Tuesday, they will be greeted by additional counselors and law enforcement."There will be a plethora of counselors and services at the school," Broward Schools Superintende...
Published: 02/21/18
School shooter may get inheritance — and be ordered to spend it on legal bills

School shooter may get inheritance — and be ordered to spend it on legal bills

Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz appears to have been in line for a sizable inheritance. He’ll never get to spend it — except perhaps on defense attorneys.The amount could be enough to compel a judge to order him to hire a private lawyer, rather ...
Published: 02/21/18
Pasco County schools, dealing with threats, warn students of consequences

Pasco County schools, dealing with threats, warn students of consequences

DADE CITY — A Pasco High School student was taken into custody Tuesday amid accusations of threatening violence against the school. The campus was not at risk, school district officials said. But they made clear they take each threat seriously, and t...
Published: 02/21/18
Officers: When an active shooter attacks, survive by taking action

Officers: When an active shooter attacks, survive by taking action

LARGO — An Illinois teacher used confrontation. A campus safety monitor in Seattle attacked with pepper spray and physical force. An assistant football coach in Indiana shouted as he chased him into the woods.All were civilians who took down an activ...
Published: 02/20/18
Under a new law, some public schools will be managed by companies. Pinellas is getting ready

Under a new law, some public schools will be managed by companies. Pinellas is getting ready

LARGO — Pinellas County School Board members are not happy about the prospect of having to hand over academic control at three struggling schools to a private company, and paying the firm up to $2 million on top of it. But that’s the course they must...
Published: 02/20/18
Lawsuit accuses FSU fraternity, national chapter of negligence in pledge’s death

Lawsuit accuses FSU fraternity, national chapter of negligence in pledge’s death

The parents of Andrew Coffey, the Florida State University student who died from alcohol poisoning after an apparent hazing episode last year, have sued the national Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity and nine of its members for their son’s death.Coffey, who wa...
Published: 02/20/18
Upset by grade, Robinson High student threatens to shoot up campus, police say

Upset by grade, Robinson High student threatens to shoot up campus, police say

Schools nationwide are on heightened alert in the wake of last week’s fatal shootings in Broward County, and in the Tampa area, that means official warnings about social media posts and more calls for police action.Two Tampa boys, one 15 and one 16, ...
Published: 02/20/18