NEW PORT RICHEY — Tom Fleming, the government teacher known at River Ridge High as "the faculty mouth," stood up at Thursday morning's senior breakfast to go over the last official duties for the Class of 2009.
On his list:
• Turn in your books or pay for the ones you've lost.
• Show up on time — 8 a.m. sharp — for graduation practice next week or you'll be locked out.
• Fight the urge to bring beach balls to bounce around on graduation night.
"We are putting on a show," Flemming said. "It's not for you. I know some of you think it is. But this is where the word 'selfless' comes in. This is a 500-person show for your parents."
But Thursday, over breakfast — well, that was all about the senior class.
The senior breakfast is a rather formal event, held at Spartan Manor, where there's a requirement to dress your best while tending to some of that end-of-the-year stuff: signing yearbooks, snapping pictures, laughing and crying over the senior slide show and getting those final instructions.
They're a great group, according to their sponsors who have watched their growth since freshman year.
"They're one of the classiest classes we had in years. The best class I've ever worked with," said Willie Walker, who teaches Advanced Placement world history and serves as class sponsor along with teacher Melissa Hill.
"They're dedicated. They're polite. They care about the school. And if anyone can make a name for themselves out in the world, it's going to be someone from this class, and I'm going to be proud to say I taught them."
"They've always conducted themselves well," said Hill, who teaches government and economics. "They're school spirited and civic minded. They're just a great group of kids. If this is what the future holds, we're in good hands."
No doubt the future was on the students' minds even as they shared memories of their past four years at River Ridge.
Some are headed into the military, others to colleges out of state. And others are planning on staying close to home.
Like Nicollette Molina, who was perusing pictures from Homecoming during her freshman year and signing a friend's yearbook.
"I'm so excited. I'm ready for it," said Nicollette, who plans to attend Pasco-Hernando Community College so she can save some money before heading for law school.
Melissa Freitag, Carrisa Midkiff, Giana Truitt and Danielle Montanez posed for a group picture and recalled some of the highlights of their tenure at River Ridge.
"I think Spirit Week was the best," Melissa said. "And senior picnic. Everyone got along."
"There's just so many crazy memories," said Mike Nowak, noting that his hours spent running cross country were among the best he spent at River Ridge.
"It's been incredible: team sports and every class was really enjoyable," said Jack Paris, who cruised the room dressed sharply in a three-piece pin-striped suit. "It's a little sad. Everyone's going their separate ways. But I'm sure everyone will probably be back — for the 10th-year reunion."
"It's scary, sad and exciting all at the same time," Giana Truitt said. "It's sad to be moving on from here but exciting to be starting our lives out there."