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Land O'Lakes seniors have a fun finale on campus

LAND O'LAKES

Ryan Garrison and John Wilhide tumbled out of the inflatable obstacle course, sweaty, panting and laughing.

"We were fighting for the win in there," Ryan said. "I definitely won."

"You cheated in there," John shot back.

"It was tough," Ryan said, dodging the accusation.

Kids party at a bounce-house heaven? Not even close.

Try the Land O'Lakes High School gym, where graduating seniors got together Wednesday for their final send-off from their home away from home of the past four years.

"It's better than school," Garrison, who plans to study business management this fall at Florida Gulf Coast University, said of the field day events. "You at least get to hang out with your friends and make some memories on the last day."

This send-off came about as a replacement for grad night in Orlando, which the school administration canceled after some mishaps last year.

"We were touting it as your last day to be a kid," senior class sponsor Mark Pearson said.

Some of the 350-member Class of 2009 were nonplussed.

"A lot of people wanted grad night, and a field day seems like a real bad replacement," said Adeeba "Dede" Khan, who like several seniors didn't plan to stick around.

She preferred to seal her memories of four years in the International Baccalaureate program in other ways.

"I just want to keep it spontaneous," said Khan, who heads to the University of South Florida in the fall.

Many others, though, liked the idea of acting like little kids again.

"I don't think many of us will have a problem reverting back to low maturity levels," said Summer Satterfield.

"I think some of us are stuck there," added Roberto Lopez.

The two were standing outside the gym waiting for the games to be set up, reminiscing and also looking ahead. Lopez is still deciding whether to study archaeology or music, while Satterfield plans to take a year off before heading back to school.

"It's kind of strange, almost terrifying," Satterfield said of the last day of high school. "You're out there in the big world. It's one of those sink or swim kind of things."

Inside, seniors signed yearbooks, took pictures and otherwise hung out.

Six students from the deaf education program — the school's largest graduating class from deaf ed in years — talked animatedly about how much they'd miss each other.

But graduation, they added, is a major milestone.

"I'm going to celebrate," Jessica Marrero said through an interpreter. "I'll be relieved. … In college, it's more freedom. I can be myself."

She will study to become a teacher of the deaf at Gallaudet University.

Then the music started pumping, and the students started dancing.

Slowly they migrated from the stands toward the games, and before long, laughter took over. They challenged each other in pursuit of a win ­— not to mention a Land O'Lakes High teddy bear.

"A lot of people left, but I'm glad I stayed," said a breathless Morgan Yates, who scrambled through the obstacle course against friend Katie Ryan. "It was a battle royale in there."

The events went on all day.

They had free pizza for lunch, cake and ice cream toward the end of the afternoon. They watched a 30-minute video of class photos and just enjoyed one last day with friends.

"At least the whole class is together," said Kevin Burrell, who plans to study and play basketball at Pasco-Hernando Community College. "I'm going to miss a lot of people."

The class will get together one last time at 11 a.m. May 30 to get their diplomas. The commencement is at the USF Sun Dome.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

Land O'Lakes seniors have a fun finale on campus 05/20/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 29, 2009 11:30am]

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